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Mentoring local young people online during COVID-19

Charlotte Knierim is a second year international student at King's who is studying a joint degree in English Law and German Law. She started mentoring Dominique, a local Year 6 student, through IntoUniversity, an educational charity that promotes aspiration to achieve among under-represented young people. Charlotte has continued mentoring Dominique online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

King’s is a proud partner of IntoUniversity and is the sponsor and lead partner for the charity’s Kennington centre. With King’s support, IntoUniversity are continuing to support over 100 primary and secondary aged students in Lambeth and Kennington with learning and mentoring continuing remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is hoped that this will help prevent vulnerable students from falling behind their peers during this educational gap.

We spoke to Charlotte about her experience of mentoring Dominique with IntoUniversity, and why the pair decided to continue their activities online during COVID-19.

780x440 Charlotte Knierim

Why did you want to get involved in mentoring?

After finishing high school, I decided to take a gap year, during which I lived and worked at a boarding school. This experience made me realise how much I enjoy working with children. When I started my degree at King’s, I looked for a volunteering role similar to what I had been doing during my gap year. I discovered IntoUniversity when they ran a workshop with one of our law societies, the KCL Pro Bono Society, where we talked to children about studying law at King’s.

IntoUniversity’s aim of supporting and helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds is something I find really important and mentoring with them has been the best decision!

What you were doing as a mentor before COVID-19?

I started mentoring Dominique in October 2019 at the beginning of the academic year. Dominique and I meet either once a week or every two weeks for our mentoring sessions. In these sessions we work on things that Dominique feels she needs help with; this year, we mostly focused on practising commas and multiplication. We also try to balance our time with academic support and more relaxing fun activities. This includes, for example playing board games. We have also discovered that we both enjoy drawing and colouring in.

Why did you decide to continue mentoring during COVID-19?

I believe that it is especially important to keep helping children during COVID-19. As their everyday life and school routine has changed so much, it is crucial that they feel supported when facing these new circumstances. I wanted to help Dominique adapt to the academic and social changes in her life and keep the mentoring sessions as “normal” as possible.

How have you adapted mentoring while you can’t meet in person?

We now have all our mentoring sessions online. This does create some challenges, mostly concerning technology, as the connection will not always be perfect so that understanding each other can be difficult. Mentoring via online calls also means that we cannot do some of the activities that we usually do, such as drawing together. However, we have found creative ways of continuing with our sessions. We started playing new games and screen-sharing allows us to work on academic exercises together.

Is there anything you have particularly enjoyed?

Before we had to stop meeting in person, every other week we would have a “fun session”. Dominique and I both really enjoyed them; our favourite was when we made milkshakes together. These sessions really help us to get to know one another and simply have a good time.

Is there anything you have learnt from working with Dominique?

My time working with Dominique has taught me a lot. Mostly, I have improved my planning skills when having to structure our lessons and preparing exercises, games and worksheets in advance. Mentoring, especially during COVID-19, has also made me be more creative and flexible because we have had to adapt our sessions in order to continue with them online.

I believe that it is especially important to keep helping children during COVID-19. As their everyday life and school routine has changed so much, it is crucial that they feel supported when facing these new circumstances.– Charlotte Knierim, second year English Law and German Law student and IntoUniversity Mentor

During this period of uncertainty and change, King’s is stepping up efforts to deliver on its promise to make the world a better place by continuing to serve our local, national and international communities.

Visit the #ContinuingToServe webpage to discover the many ways in which King’s is making a difference, let us know how you can help or discover existing projects that need support.

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