AN INSPIRATIONAL paralympic athlete has been mentoring two youngsters at a Rugby school as part of a scheme to help young people who have faced adversity.
Avon Valley School Year 9 students Charlotte Oliver and Paulina Jaworska have had regular visits from paralympic skier Anna Turney as part of the Unlocking Potential mentoring programme run by the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and exam board AQA.
The girls – who were among just 40 students nationwide to be chosen for the scheme – were nominated onto the programme in March as a way to keep them focused on studies despite the adversity they have faced in their home lives.
The scheme linked them up with their mentor and challenged them to plan and deliver projects to benefit the community.
Paulina chose to support young people with serious illness by teaming up with Molly Olly’s Wishes Charity and planting a ‘Butterfly Wishing Tree’ at Zoe’s Place Children’s hospice, Coventry, where children write their wishes on butterflies.
She said: “Running the project was a new experience for me. I enjoyed meeting and spending time with the children and I hope they will enjoy watching the tree and plants grow.
“It made me feel happy to see the smiles on the children’s faces. We hope to go back at Christmas to put baubles on the tree.”
As part of Charlotte’s project, she worked with Age UK’s Bloom-in Group, a social group based at The Claremont Centre which supports ladies aged 70 to 100 years old.
Charlotte spent time with the ladies, helped them make cards, brought in her christening gown and discussed fashion changes through the generations with the ladies.
Charlotte said: “I felt that the project went well and it was a great experience for me to have. I think that the ladies also enjoyed it as they have asked me to go back, I’m going at Christmas to make crackers and cards with them!”
Janet Newman from Rugby’s Age UK added: “Charlotte is such a lovely girl and had so much time, patience and understanding of the group. They took to her straight the way and enjoyed the activities that she organised.”
Anna Turney represented Great Britain in alpine skiing at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Paralympic Games.
She was a promising snowboarder until an accident left her paralysed from the waist down.
She said: “The girls wanted to make groups of people they care about happy so Paulina decided to work with sick children and Charlotte with elderly people.
“This is the first time the girls have done anything like this, they worked hard and both projects were really successful and had a great impact on the community.
“Helping the girls progress has been a real pleasure for me, and the school has been a great support.”
Dame Kelly Holmes Trust works with disadvantaged young people by linking them up with athlete mentors.
Dame Kelly Holmes said: “The challenges and experiences that athletes go through should be used to help young people, not only in sport, but in life too.
“Through Unlocking Potential you can help a young person find their talent and realise their potential by working with one of our sport stars.”
Visit www.aqa.org.uk/supporting-education/unlocking-potential for more information on the programme.