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Why you should never underestimate the power of your support

5th March 2024

I always say it takes one person. One person to guide, support, inspire and help create change. Being a student can be difficult and at times overwhelming, whether that’s because of academic stresses, personal difficulties or the general day-to-day struggles.

This is why having a positive, welcoming and safe learning environment is essential. On average every student spends over 1,000 hours at college a year, and yet it only takes one second for someone to say yes and one minute to have a supportive conversation. These small things can make the biggest difference.

My passion for spreading awareness on the importance of staff impact stems from my own personal experience of having just one staff member who believed in me, pushed me to be the best version of myself, took the time to support me and who truly shaped me into the person I am today.

I look at the things I’ve achieved, the opportunities I’ve had and the personal growth I’ve made and see one thing: gratitude. Yes, it might have been me that physically did those things, but I know that none of it would have been possible without the continuous support I had behind the scenes. When I talk about support, it’s not about giving up hours of your time or moving mountains, but instead asking if I was ok, offering to help when I needed it and celebrating success no matter how big or small.

I was a quiet, unconfident, and misunderstood student, and at one point I didn’t enjoy college and couldn’t see myself completing my course. Fast-forward three years and I’ve finished my course with a D*D*D*, won two awards, assist with the delivery of our enrichment sessions, and support our college sport teams. I am also a AoC Sport Ambassador, a member of the AoC FE Youth Collective, and a member of the Youth Sport Trust Youth Board. I know, crazy right? My motivation then and now is making the staff at my college proud, as a way of giving back for all the support they provided me with when I needed it the most.

Please don’t underestimate how impactful your support can be, as it may just be the difference between a student succeeding or not reaching their potential.

Karla Hacking, our student health, wellbeing, and extracurricular co-ordinator has made a huge impact on my college life over the past few years. So much so that I’m now aspiring to follow in Karla’s footsteps and work within the sport development field. When I had little to no self-belief, Karla believed in me 110%; this is something that will stay with me forever.

If I didn’t have that one person believing in me, I don’t know where I would be. I know for sure I wouldn’t be writing this today, I wouldn’t be traveling the country attending events held by national sporting organisations, I wouldn’t have over 50 training certificates or get to do what I enjoy every day.

I’m one student and Karla is one staff member but look at the magnitude of positive change that has occurred. Imagine what it would be like if every further education student could share a story like mine. Listen, understand, support and care: that’s all it takes to shape a future and help make the change we so desperately need. My goal is to work within the FE environment so that I have the chance to make a positive difference each day.

I’ve watched myself grow in confidence, overcome challenges, achieve things I once thought were impossible, and I no longer doubt my ability. Most importantly I can finally say I believe in myself. These things didn’t come from a textbook or a PowerPoint, but instead through the positive impact that one staff member made. My life both inside and outside of college has changed for the better and I know if 16-year-old Leah could see me know she would be in disbelief but more than anything she would be proud. Remember, all it takes is one person. You can be that person.

Leah Kelly is studying sports development at Blackburn College.