How my university project helped me make a difference in people’s mental health
University is about much more than learning in lectures and great nights out with friends. It’s also a chance to access new experiences, build your confidence and get involved in things that enable you to make a difference. At York St John University the Converge Project is one of those opportunities. Over the last 10 years, the project has seen students and staff working together to offer creative courses to mental health service users from the local area. Graduate Holly Sloan has been involved in Converge some time. Holly shares her story about the opportunities it has given her.
"Converge is a unique, award-winning partnership between York St John University and mental health service providers, offering educational opportunities for people in the local community who access mental health services. I was first welcomed to Converge nearly 4 years ago when I joined the Introduction to Theatre Course as a Student Volunteer.
I still remember how it felt the first time I stepped into that group. I was terrified. Eighteen-year-old me was only a few months into University life, still feeling homesick, and didn’t truly understand what mental health was. Yet there I was, stood in a circle of people more diverse than I’d ever been in before, about to participate in a session on the one thing I did understand; theatre.
Two hours later, I went home feeling totally awestruck. We had shared, laughed, and worked together. Despite our mix in ages and life experiences, our combined love of theatre brought us together and quickly dissolved my nerves. Thursday evenings became my favourite night of the week.
Volunteering with Converge shaped my three years as a student, and I completed my Drama: Education and Community degree with a performance lecture disseminating research around why Converge Students engage with theatre. I adored the co-production in Converge. As a York St John Student, I formed close bonds with the Converge Students I worked with because, in the space, we were equals. We supported and learned from each other.
After I finished my degree, I was successful in applying for the Converge Graduate Intern role, which I began in October 2018. This led to a more permanent role as an Administrator and Volunteers Coordinator. I love how varied my work is, from looking after the social media pages to organising events, being a website contributor, supporting the office coordinator, administrating The Discovery Hub and recruiting York St John Student Volunteers to participate in our courses.
Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to do something that felt meaningful. For me, working for Converge goes beyond that. Every day, I am inspired by my colleagues, by the tutors, and by the students. One year after finishing University, I feel so lucky to be at the beginning of a career I love. For me, this will never be ‘just a job’."