Two university lecturers and one final year student from Nottingham Trent University have joined forces to lead a youth group.
Adult volunteers Second Lieutenant Dr Maria Kontogianni, a Principal Lecturer in Psychology, Potential Instructor Dr Sally Andrews, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology, and Sergeant Courtney Edwards, a final year Psychology student are all members of Nottingham Army Cadet Force’s (ACF) Nottingham Academy detachment in Sneinton and all decided to use their spare time to make a positive difference to young people in their community.
Maria originally joined Nottinghamshire ACF four years ago initially volunteering in Carlton before moving over to the unit in Sneinton where she is now Detachment Commander.
Maria explained: “Although I am in a university role now, I was previously an unruly child so decided that by volunteering in my community I could help to mentor local young people and encourage them to achieve their goals both in and out of the Cadet Force.
“I wasn’t sure what new skills, if any, I would pick up from my volunteer experience, but I am pleased to say it has surpassed any initial expectations I may have had. Joining the youth organisation has changed my life for the better as it is immensely rewarding and has given the other adult volunteers and I the chance to gain valuable leadership skills and achieve First Aid qualifications we can also use in our civilian lives.”
Sally joined the ACF a few months ago because she wanted to help young people reach their potential. She said: “At the University we are keen to provide opportunities to succeed for students who come from all different backgrounds. However, there is an imbalance in attainment and subsequent prospects for some young people that begins long before they get to university or join the world of work, so when I heard about the ACF and its aims and impacts on young people’s lives, I was sold. It’s not all about the military; it’s about giving young people skills, qualifications, and the opportunities to succeed.”
Many professional people may not think they have time to volunteer but Maria believes that you can get out of the experience what you put in, so it is worth every ounce of energy and enthusiasm you can spare.
She continued: “Visiting a detachment for the first time is awe inspiring. The adult volunteers come from all walks of life and they all make a unique contribution to these kids’ lives. They create a safe and fun environment and help the cadets develop leadership, teamwork and social skills. Witnessing cadets’ achievements and knowing that you had something to do with that is very rewarding.
“After working a 10 hour day I often feel tired and could easily go home and relax, but when I arrive at the detachment and can see the kids benefiting from what we are teaching them it makes it all worthwhile. The cadets are funny, interesting and I really enjoy assisting them to gain new skills. We have a saying at the detachment, ‘stand tall and be confident’. I want the cadets to be proud of who they are, have confidence in their abilities and have fun.”
Moving to the UK 20 years ago, Maria is originally from Greece. She concluded: “We always need more adult volunteers so I would encourage anyone who has an interest to get in touch or visit the ACF website to find out more. It doesn’t matter what background you are from, you do not need any previous military or teaching experience as everything can be learnt ‘on the job’. I would recommend volunteering with Nottinghamshire ACF to anyone who wants to work with young people and enjoys a challenge.”
To find out more about joining Nottinghamshire ACF as a cadet or adult volunteer visit www.armycadets.com or call 0115 983 7645.