Hills Road Sixth Form College on how social action develops 21st century employability skills – and boosts students’ resilience and wellbeing
Research indicates that almost eight in ten young people aged between ten and 20 years old would take part in campaigning, fundraising or volunteering if they had the chance. Currently, four in ten (42%) young people take part in meaningful social action. Robust evidence confirms that young people who participate in social action have higher life satisfaction and enhanced levels of well-being.
They also develop key skills such as team-building and problem-solving, as well as character strengths such as resilience and empathy. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers significant benefits. Evidence points to the release of dopamine in the brain in relation to acts of altruism, which has a positive effect on individuals’ wellbeing and mental attitude.
To secure all these benefits, and just as importantly to make a positive difference to its local, national and global community, Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge decided to set its Year 12 students a tough challenge in the summer of 2018 to raise £10,000 in just one week, for charities of their choice.
At the beginning of the week, students were split into groups of between ten and 12, and were each given a brief to work on a project to identify and raise a minimum of £100 per group for their chosen charity. They then had three further days to go out and about in Cambridgeshire raising the minimum target of £100 per group, before coming together on the Friday to share success stories.
We have been delighted by the way in which they have risen to the challenge
One group of students formed a band called Ben’s Boys, and three of their members performed in the centre of Cambridge raising funds for their chosen charity. Other groups of students included the Deenadreamers, who walked their neighbours’ dogs, washed cars and did some gardening to raise funds for the Botswana Diabetes Partnership Project; a group called Walking for Water completed a sponsored eight-kilometre walk (the distance the average person in Kenya has to walk to access water) to raise funds for WaterAid.
Much innovation, creativity and enterprise was in evidence, and the Hills Road students had a fantastic week raising an amazing total of £19,585 for charities during their first ever ‘Social Action Week’.
Principal Jo Trump said: “The purpose of the week was to connect our students with local, national and international charities that they are passionate about and give them an insight into social action. We have been delighted by the way in which they have risen to the challenge and really understood what it means to make a difference in this hands-on way.”
Prizes were awarded at the end of the week, with one going to the team who raised the most for their nominated charity. This went to the enterprising ice cream sellers who raised £811 for Melanoma Focus. Equally innovative were the Bedsheet Boyz, who created community art on Parker’s Piece by inviting the public to co-create a piece of combined art painted on bedsheets in return for a donation to their nominated charity, Jimmy’s Night Shelter.
The young Social Enterprise Company, Unloc, have been working in partnership with the college to help inspire, motivate and develop this enterprising, socially responsible mindset in its students. Unloc’s CEO, Hayden Taylor said: “We are delighted with how successful the Hills Road Social Action Week has been and how well students have responded. We are looking forward to making it even bigger and better next year.”