“The value of YPI lies in taking part in a real project that impacts real people”
Banchory Academy students presenting at the YPI 2017 National Event | Picture by Fraser Band Photography
Banchory Academy has been delivering the Youth & Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) with its students for the last 9 years. Here, Eleanor McIlraith, PT Guidance, talks about the impact YPI has had on their students and the benefits the programme brings to the school and wider community.
Up until the 2016/17 academic year Banchory Academy delivered their YPI programme within the senior phase via the S5 Guidance curriculum. Over the years, as staff have become more knowledgeable about YPI, the process has become much more streamlined and there are developments afoot that will see YPI move to the BGE allowing S3 students to get more actively involved in their community at an earlier stage in their school life.
For Banchory Academy there is significant value associated with delivering the YPI programme. Much of PSE is discussion based and by delivering YPI in this part of the curriculum we get to see students working in teams on a project which offers a different perspective. The value really lies in taking part in a real project that impacts real people. Through YPI Banchory students learn about giving back to their own community and they get a buzz from doing that.
“YPI makes them look beyond themselves, confront real life examples of social issues, engage with real people and become more accepting of difference.”
Eleanor further explains, “PSE covers topics such as inclusion, disability, mental health and physical health, however these are usually covered through discussion, DVD etc., but students don’t engage with these issues in the same way as they have done when they have approached the topics through the YPI programme. YPI makes them look beyond themselves, confront real life examples of social issues, engage with real people and become more accepting of difference. Seeing what students can achieve has been a real surprise and it has been quite humbling to hear their personal stories.”
The experience of giving has also been of great benefit. The students realise that it is not just about giving money and they can give their time and get involved in the community. In addition students have developed a personal connection to the charities with peers sharing experiences of mental health or of struggling with their sexuality. This personal connection has also given students an insight into the challenges others face and where they can get help if they need it. YPI has helped students build confidence and has been empowering for many as well as having a huge impact on staff and their understanding of what is going on in their own school.
Alongside the benefit of engaging in a real and impactful project, the chance to advocate on behalf of a charity live on stage is something that the school and students have embraced. Eleanor explains, “We found that by making the final a very prestigious, sophisticated event held at an external venue with the whole year group in attendance, enabled far greater commitment to the programme and our teams spent more time getting to know the different charities and how they can support them. We also introduced a semi-final stage with two teams representing each house at the respective house assemblies which meant they were presenting to 25% of the school at a time. By making it more of an inter-house event, this gets the younger students involved, makes them aware of YPI at an earlier stage and everyone gets behind the teams representing their house.”
Although the programme is a great success within Banchory Academy, Eleanor does acknowledge that it is not without its challenges. Some of these challenges have been related to the rural location of the school and the charities, which logistically can make things difficult. “It can sometimes be difficult for our students if they make calls during their PSE lessons and they are waiting for a response which sometimes comes in after the lesson has finished. We also encourage our students to go out to meet their charities but this isn’t always possible during PSE time.” The school recognises that charities may not always have the resources to communicate or meet with students or attend the YPI Final, this however can be disappointing for students.However Eleanor also acknowledged the importance of “students keeping the charities informed on their progress with YPI and whether they have reached a final.”
“We have had students who previously struggled and who didn’t speak up in class, but when they were in their YPI group in a final would get up on stage in front of 150 people and speak.”
Eleanor is clear that the benefits of YPI far outweigh any challenges that the students and charities may face. The school has seen amazing changes in some of its students. “We have had students who previously struggled and who didn’t speak up in class, but when they were in their YPI group in a final would get up on stage in front of 150 people and speak.” Eleanor says it has been transformational for these students. It has been really empowering for them to work with real people on real issues. We are looking forward to seeing how YPI continues to evolve and have a positive impact at Banchory Academy.