Through a series of local community engagement events, Shaping Futures has committed to supporting communities with impartial information, advice and guidance on Higher Education. By going into these communities and engaging locally, we can begin to remove potential barriers to Higher Education within targeted wards in Merseyside.
In this blog Cherise Weaver, from the Shaping Futures core team, gives a personal account of our approach so far, focusing on our first event, which was held in Liverpool.
Most of my career has been working with communities across Merseyside. I am passionate about the impact that engaging with communities can have on the lives of young people and their families. I have worked in my local communities for over 25 years, delivering youth and communities work as well as teaching, training and mentoring. The chance to now visit these areas again in my new role as a Higher Education Progression Adviser (HEPA) with Shaping Futures, gives me an opportunity to share my experiences and inspire a new generational to consider education and the impact it can have on their lives.
We started our community engagement work in Toxteth, Liverpool; building on our existing links with the Toxteth FireFit Hub. Toxteth is an area with relatively love levels of young people engaging with Higher Education and the Hub is at the heart of the community, which is of mixed ethnicity.
Being familiar with the area, I was excited about the prospect of delivering an event that is both educational and inspiring to young people. When planning this event, we took some of our inspiration from the concept of Asset Based Community Development, an idea championed by Barack and Michelle Obama, which recognises that communities already have assets that can be used and mobilized to make a difference and enthuse others. Through this, our event was defined by the participation of local organisations and local businesses. Toxteth seemed an ideal location to engage with the local community, as census data highlights that under 27% of Shaping Futures target demographic have qualifications at Level 4 or above.
The event in Toxteth opened with a dance performance by MD Productions, who designed their costumes and T-shirts with inspirational messages relating to progression. Their performance was a mixture of parents and children of all ages and reflected how education can positively impact everyone at any age. The day continued with an inspirational talk about how Higher Education can change and enhance future prospects, regardless of age, ethnicity, status or religion. For the children present, we had face painting and a selfie mirror and the finale for the event was a dance performance by students from the City of Liverpool College.
There were also a number of our Shaping Futures partners in attendance, who had stalls and were on hand for individual questions and advice about Higher Education.
The second community engagement event was held at the Lighthouse Community Centre in Anfield, where we put together a similar programme of activities. This event targetted families and young people from across North Liverpool and encouraged them to think about raising their own aspirations through Higher Education. Our aim was to create a friendly atmosphere which allowed learners to ask questions and offer information and 1:1 guidance.
In total, these two events engaged with over 170 members of the community. The feedback on these events was overwhelming positive:
Amazing, informative and fun
It makes me think about my future
The community is in the heart of this event
Bringing the community together with a positive and inspirational message
Most recently, Shaping Futures attended St Helen’s Day. This local celebration (of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Borough of St Helens) proved a fantastic opportunity to meet local families and young people within a larger public event. This approach allowed us to reach a large number of people on the day and provide information on Higher Education.
A short video highlighting our 2 Liverpool based community engagement events can be found here.
To find out more about upcoming community engagement events, please contact Cherise Weaver or Hannah Lewis.