Rachael on her learner journey

On the run up to results day on 6th August, we’re sharing people’s stories of how they got to where they are today and the role of youth work in that journey. Today, Rachael Hatfield, an #IWill Ambassador, MSYP and youth worker, shares her story.

#IWill ambassador Rachael stands holding #IWill sign

When I was leaving school at the end of fifth year, I was told that I would go to college, then to university and get a job related to my degree.  I remember thinking that was the normal thing to do, that no other options existed. Yet, looking back on the last few years, I realise that there are other options, and that the academic route is not always the one we need to go down

After leaving education with three national 5’s, one higher and two failed college courses, I came to the conclusion that sitting in a classroom was definitely not for me. However, I thrived in more practical environments, learning as I went along. The things I’ve learnt (and am still learning) from my time as a member of my local youth forum and being Vice Chair of the Highland Youth Parliament, are going to be with me forever. In school, I didn’t learn about negotiation tactics or diplomacy, I didn’t understand what it meant to create real, lasting change.  These are all things that being in a youth work setting taught me.

After two years of volunteering in youth work, I began working for the same organisation, that led to even more opportunities opening up and the learning continued! From a day trip to Glasgow and residentials in Fort William, I travelled to new places. School and college didn’t teach me to prepare for taking the lead on a new, exciting project, but my colleagues did. I now have a job where I get to help young people who aren’t too sure what they want to do, but each one of them will get there, in their own way, in their own time, just like I did.

Now, I’ve been elected to the Scottish Youth Parliament to represent my local area of Inverness and Nairn. In the short time, I’ve been in the position, I’ve learnt a crazy amount of things, with a lot more still to learn. No textbook could ever teach me how to speak to others or understand the issues faced in my local area, but by getting out there and asking local people or quizzing decision makers, I find out what’s happen and why things are the way they are.

So, college didn’t work out and I’m not planning on going away to university, but I’ve had the most incredible experiences so far. I’ve got friends all across the UK, and so many contacts with some pretty impressive opportunities. If anything, I want to be proof that not everyone needs to go to university or rush to make a decision. Seriously, I went from wanting to work in Law to nursing to teaching then early years before realising my love of youth work.

On a final note, the one thing all my experiences have taught me is who I am, I’m a person who isn’t defined by her exam qualifications list, I’m defined by the person I enable myself to be. Remember, we’re all different for a reason, be unique, be you.