After over a year at Element Society, I have made the decision to fulfill a life-long dream of mine and travel around Southeast Asia.

Before I go, I have been given the opportunity to comment on my time here and I have been reflecting on the amazing experiences and opportunities I have had. 

I studied Education with Psychology and Counselling at Sheffield Hallam University and was looking for a role in which I would be able to interact with young people, especially those who are more marginalised or who do not thrive in mainstream education settings. I worked as a Team Leader on Element Society's NCS programme in the summer of 2018 and appreciated their approach to working with young people.

Shortly after this, I became a core staff member, working whilst studying for a Master's Degree in Applied Human Rights. Element has been incredibly supportive of my studies and have allowed me the flexibility to thrive in both settings. During this year I was entrusted to lead the largest of our NCS programmes, responsible over a hundred young people aged 15-17 as well as almost twenty staff members. I have successfully completed training in countless areas and widened my areas of capability, going on to train others in these same areas. I have had the privilege of working alongside incredible stakeholders from all over the city and beyond, including inspirational staff from other youth charities and organisations. I have done talks and assemblies to thousands of young people and worked directly with hundreds from all walks of life and have seen Element Society expand into a new fantastic building that is set to become the youth hub for Sheffield, providing the safe and engaging space for young people that the city is crying out for. 

Over the last few years, I have learnt many lessons, all of which I will carry with me and use to inform my personal and professional development:

  • Be open and willing to learn from anyone you come into contact with, no matter how young or inexperienced they may be or how different their life is to yours. There is no place for pride when it comes to working with young people and they often know what they need far more than you ever could. Youth work should be youth-led, and if you don't let this guide your practice, you have no business practicing at all. 
  • Seek advice and guidance from people around you, regardless of where they fall in the chain of command within an organisation. You will not always get things right and if you rely solely on your own knowledge and experience this will more frequently be the case.
  • The third is to never ask anyone to do anything you would not be willing to do yourself, anyone who works in the third sector would concur that no matter how senior you become you are never above doing the washing up before you go home. 
  • You must always see the value and importance of other people's experience and recognise your own privilege. This does not just relate to youth work or even the third sector, but life in general. If you do not proactively learn more about all the areas of other peoples identity, be that culture, religion, background, sexuality or any other facet, you are not only validating ignorance, you are robbing yourself of the chance to actively participate in the world around you. 
I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to get involved with Element Society, to do so. If you are a parent or guardian who is considering allowing their child to go on NCS, you should. Nothing is more important to the staff as supporting them through the journey and meeting any of the various needs they may have. If you see a job advertised to come and work here, apply. You will be given the tools you need to grow professionally and your achievements will be celebrated as their own. If you are another organisation in the city and you need a welcoming space to hold your activities or you are looking for someone to collaborate with, contact us.

We pride ourselves on the strong connections we have to the city and our stakeholders. Finally, and most importantly: if you are a young person and you are wanting to find somewhere to feel empowered and to make an impact on the world around you, we can offer that to you. We are nothing without the young people we champion and our door is always open.

I am sad to be leaving Element Society, but anyone who has ever worked with us knows that you never actually leave.