My name is Donna Wallace and I have lived and worked in and around my large local estate, not far from Old Kent Road and Walworth Road in South East London.
I was fine working in youth work for the voluntary sector, taking young people on summer adventure camps, climbing, abseiling and running D of E trips. I used to bring mountain bike equipment to the Rank conferences and teach adults how to ride bikes during the two days. Chris and Charlie, who were the youth directors at the time, kept encouraging me to take up the Youth or Adult Programme which ran over a 3 year period at your own organisation and helped you study and earn a wage as well as gain youth work experience during your YAP years.
I was quite intimidated with the thought of going to University and thinking I would be the only one from my family who has been. I had friends who had gone at the age of 18, and said what a wonderful experience it was but some regretted going at that age and some cracked and dropped out. It was a lot to process. I spoke with friends and family as well as my project manager who equally encouraged me to think long and hard about this opportunity to study and work. Again, I never believed I would ever go to YMCA College to study for a Bachelors never mind a BA Hon’s. By the time I said yes and put an application forward, I knew with the wealth of youth work experience that I hold and the support and encouragement on offer from my work colleagues and colleagues in the Rank family, that I was in a better place to achieve this goal of obtaining a BA Hon’s degree. The degree was from Canterbury Christchurch University and the thought of graduating at Canterbury Cathedral with my family watching was an inspiration. But please do not think for one moment it was easy. It was one of the hardest sacrifices I have ever made, especially in those dark hours of the night and mornings struggling to complete assignments but with good family, friends and a good staff team encouraging you to succeed, it makes it a hell of a lot easier to achieve.
The impact YAP has had on my learning journey has been immense; the impact it has had on my youth work delivery has helped me and equally helped my colleagues. I have met and spoken to people who I would never have got the chance to converse with regarding youth authors or lectures or subjects, especially papers around the riots of 2011. I have met some interesting and knowledgeable youth workers from all over the UK, who I value and have stayed in touch with. Again, thank you Rank for the chance to better myself and to become another unique pebble in the pond of the Rank family…