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Women and girls: The Girls’ Network

30 May 2016

In the latest of our series of blogs from people at projects recently funded through the women and girls initiative, Autumn Valentine tells us how The Girls’ Network supported her through her GCSE’s and beyond by matching her with a mentor when she was in Year 11.

My name is Autumn Valentine, this time last year I was finishing Year 11 and awaiting to enrol at Havant Sixth Form college to study English Language and Literature, Psychology and Religious Studies. At the beginning of Year 11 I was lucky enough to be selected to take part in a scheme called The Girls’ Network.

Autumn-Valentine-Blog-4-The-Girls-Network

Autumn (left) and her mentor Claire. 

The scheme involved each of us girls (mentees) to firstly attend a matching event where we speed networked with a selection of five inspirational women. The Girls’ Network had already interviewed us girls a few weeks before whilst the mentors were going through training and made ideal matches. At the training event I remember talking to a women called Claire and thinking how amazing she was. Our conversation flowed with no pauses or loose ends.

Over the past year me and Claire have met once every month for an hour. We were given tasks to complete such as practising our interview skills, positive failure and exam revision techniques. Most of the time, Claire and I would be so wrapped up in conversation that our time would over-run. Claire’s approach was the perfect balance; she helped me with my maths revision, looked through college prospectus and helped me decide on courses. She taught me about university, whilst always taking the time to ask me about my social life.

At the beginning of year 11, I wasn’t as focused or  revising as much as I should have been. In fact, I was very much more interested in hanging out with my friends and having a laugh. My attitude was to live in the moment and worry later. A few mentors and staff at The Girls’ Network remember me saying at the start: “I don’t really care, I just care about my friends.” This seems so strange to me now because there’s so many things and people I care about; I care about becoming a better person and making my mum and others proud.

Over the past year, I have gone from someone with a casual attitude, to giving a speech about myself and the effect The Girls Network has had on me. My Head teacher actually mentioned me by name as a shining example of someone who’s ‘turned it around’! This makes me so happy and proud of myself. At the end of the day, this change comes down to: having someone believe in you, support you and say “actually you can do this.” This is exactly what you get from The Girls Network, a real sense of community, commitment and belief, which every young girl around the country and world should be entitled to.

The Girls Network is such a great scheme to get involved in. For me, it has helped me to develop my strengths and focus my attention. As a teenage girl it is so hard to not get distracted by boys, parties and social life; it’s so vital  we don’t get distracted at this crucial time of our lives when we are transitioning out of school. The Girls’ Network helped me see that these years are the building blocks of our success and achievements, and are what determine our future. It is so easy to ignore what your teachers and parents are saying because you think it’s just them nagging. Instead, it’s so beneficial to have someone like Claire who has been through it all, who isn’t your parent or teacher and who can give good advice.

It has been almost one year since I graduated from the programme, but I know I will still be a part of The Girls’ Network. Through the Ambassador Network, I know I can call on The Girls Network to help me with all manner of things, such as university applications, CVs or anything else you may need assistance with. I am so thankful and grateful to have been involved in such a life changing project that along with my wonderful teachers and amazing family have helped me to become who I am today.

If you’d like to know more about The Girls’ Network, visit their website

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