We launched City Year London last September, but it’s based on the US model that was founded in Boston in 1988. It’s now in 21 US cities, and was taken to Johannesburg by Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. This week, our first year of young people have ‘graduated’, so it’s a really exciting – if emotional – time for us. When they first come to us, we do some training with them before splitting them into teams, which then go into different schools. They work in the schools Monday to Thursday, and they’re basically like big brothers and sisters, somebody the pupils can go and talk to. Last week we had lots of farewell assemblies, which were really tearful. The children can find it really hard to say goodbye.
Tonight is the big graduation ceremony. It’s a massive event: there will be more than 300 people there, a combination of the friends and families of the graduates, staff and children from the schools, our funders and supporters and other people we’ve gathered up along the way. It’s at the British Museum and we’re going to have a few performances – the children from one of our schools have even adapted the Glee version of Don’t Stop Believing to make a City Year song, and they’re going to come and perform it.
By the time it gets to the end of the week, I will definitely be looking forward to a bit of downtime. I’m going away to Budapest for a friend’s wedding, which will be a complete contrast to these past few weeks. It can be a bit of a rollercoaster when you’re setting something up, but you just have to get your head down and get into it. It’s been really tough, but incredibly rewarding. I know tonight’s going to be emotional. My main aim is not to cry at any point when I’m on the stage!
Sophie Livingstone is chief exec of City Year London, a volunteering scheme for young people.