The success of our programmes depends to a large extent on the support of our partner schools and other organisations, and it is therefore great to read the reflections of our students featuring in the newsletters of one of these schools, the Oasis Academy: Isle of Sheppey.

Our new year 9 cohort started their time on the KAN APP with a residential at Tonbridge School at the start of July, and Kennedi Hubbard was one of those involved:

I was successful in getting through the KAN selection stage and was excited at being awarded a place on this very prestigious scheme. KAN enables us to gain more confidence and to ensure we have the right attitude towards talking in front of a group of people in situations such as interviews, meetings or possible future performances.   To introduce us to the programme I did a residential trip with them at Tonbridge School. It consisted of me and other students near enough my age staying at the school for a week and having lessons every day of that week at Tonbridge School. These trips will continue to take place for two weeks a year for the next four years that I will be on the programme for.  My timetable was made up of lessons such as: Sociology, Art, Politics, Economics, Law, Coding, and Sport. We also went on a trip to London to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum and Imperial college, where we learnt about how mosquitoes spread malaria, how they are stopping that and even got to do a dissection. Our day started at 7:45am and ended at 9:30pm, and despite me thinking that this was going to  be a bit tedious and exhausting, it turned out to be one of the best trips of my life.

Through participating in this programme I not only learnt so much more about my potential future plans and education, I also made some great friends. Within two days of meeting each other we became almost like a family; even with the Year 10s you could see how close they were, in the excitement they got when being reunited.  I’ve gained so much more confidence within myself as well, I feel like when I was surrounded with all these nice, positive people who I had bonded with fully and did things like drama exercises, talking in class and doing presentations was not that nerve racking anymore.

All the students involved in the programme were given assigned mentors to talk to when we felt troubled or were just curious about what universities would be good for us/what university is like in general. We also made an account on a website called ‘Brightside Mentoring’, this was to stay in touch with our mentors outside of trips and meetups, to talk about lessons, school, universities or to talk about the targets we set with our mentors. I can fully and utterly say that the mentors have been a credit to all of us there.

If you ever get the chance to join this programme, take it. Despite me thinking that I would not like it I still went and did it, and I do not regret that one bit. Furthermore, if you do go and you feel homesick (like I did) try to pull through because I almost went home and missed out on some of the best days of my year.  I have really enjoyed this trip and look forward to many more that await me.

Kian Trainor, one of our year 10, wrote about both his KAN APP experiences and also his future ambitions, and work experience he has undertaken in pursuit of his goals:

As the final term has drawn to a close, I have sampled an abundance of new experiences which have been both exciting and interesting. I’m part of the KAN programme, an acronym for the Kent Academies Network, and our final residential of this school year took place from the 2nd to the 8th of July at Tonbridge School. It was an utterly fantastic week which was full of opportunity to cultivate and develop new skills, share information and enjoy exciting experiences. KAN requires an immense amount of commitment and dedication: the days are long and intense and as such, it is vital to remain focused and present at all times.

Typically, our days are full of activity and centred around lessons and lectures. What is so wonderful about KAN is that we don’t only have the space to expand in our chosen areas and the compulsory curriculum, but our eyes are opened and our interests are piqued in unfamiliar fields and subjects. For instance, we had a particularly interesting Eastern Culture lesson which explored social and cultural differences and as such, gave us the chance to try different teas. This led me to discover my love of black tea! We had a day trip to the Reach Out Lab, located in The Imperial College of London, where we had a tour; a lecture on biomechanical engineering; and joined scientists in the lab where tests are ongoing to find ways of preventing the spread of malaria. It was the most incredible day and I loved every moment of it. The Imperial College is one of the universities I am interested in applying to and it was such a fantastic opportunity to spend the day there. I also thoroughly enjoyed studying Greek, politics and economics: all subjects I wouldn’t otherwise be acquiring knowledge in or growing such an interest and passion for.

During the week, as part of our politics class, we worked towards a debate which took place on our last day. We had a week to study the Scottish Referendum and prepare our argument and I was elated when my team won! Whilst the task was, of course, focused on informing and educating us: it’s always good to keep that healthy sense of competition! We have such a camaraderie between us, and KAN really is like a family and a “home from home”: we’re building wonderful friendships that I hope will last all of our lives and we are making wonderful memories along the way. I’d strongly encourage any pupil who is given the opportunity to apply for a place on KAN to go for it: it is an absolutely incredible process to be part of and I’m excited to see where we will all go in the future, and how the support of all involved will propel us into the next phases of our educations and our lives. We are very fortunate to have this available to us at Oasis and I think it’s a valuable reminder that our only real obstacle in the pursuit of our aspirations, is ourselves: we can achieve all we wish to, if we are prepared to work hard enough for it.

Following this fun and challenging week I commenced my work experience placement. It really has been a busy few weeks! I chose to work at Sheppey FM and it was a brilliant week packed full of new experiences, building on important skills and overcoming challenges. I’d recently been a part of the team selected to host a live radio show on Sheppey on World War 1 (an experience that I really enjoyed), and this fuelled my enthusiasm to go back to the media centre for a longer period of time.  Since I’m currently interested in pursuing a career in astrophysics and aeronautical engineering, my placement wasn’t related to a career interest.  However, my passion for our island, our community, and the work the radio is doing for so many here prompted me to get involved with Sheppey FM. I’ve realised, since completing the week, what an invaluable experience it has been and it has awarded me far more skills than I had initially contemplated. I believe all who have been fortunate enough to secure a placement there have expanded in their confidence and social skills, and truly grown from the opportunity. I presented news and weather, introduced songs and was interviewed by presenters as well as completing research and development tasks and furthering my production skills. It was such a rewarding, enjoyable and thrilling week that I’ve decided to go back in my free time as part of the Youth Radio Project.

With the summer holidays just around the corner, keep in mind the numerous opportunities down at Sheppey FM.  Pop down to the media centre or tune in to 92.2 for more information about training opportunities for all ages and how you can get involved! They are a great bunch of people down there and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them once again for all they do for our community.

Our final contribution comes from Charlotte King, one of the first cohort to have completed the KAN APP:

On Sunday 2nd July, I travelled to Tonbridge School for the last time for my graduation from the Kent Academies Network University Access Programme (KAN UAP). This visit reunited the first ever cohort of students to be chosen for the programme. We were selected in 2013, and together have completed 8 residentials at Tonbridge School, Sevenoaks School, Fitzwilliam and Queens’ Colleges, Cambridge. My time on the KAN UAP has been incredible, filled with laughter, amazing memories and lots of brilliant lessons with teachers who are experts in their respective fields. At Tonbridge School, I got to meet up again with the friends that I’ve made, along with the mentors and founders of the scheme. Our mentors gave heartfelt speeches about us all, and we each received a mug as memento of our time on this journey. Mr Murray also received a mug as a thank you for his continuing support!  To say I will miss everyone and the residentials is an understatement; I’ve had an incredible time and it is something I will never forget.

Charlotte quite rightly identifies the importance of the work of Paul Murray, a long-serving member of staff and senior leader at the Oasis Isle of Sheppey, and one of the biggest supporters of the KAN APP.  His support, and the support of so many others, is hugely appreciated by all involved at the AAF, and we are genuinely excited by the sense our movement is growing, and the general consensus that we are starting to make a difference!

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