More than 80 Cambridge students are volunteering as classroom assistants in 26 local schools this term through the long-running STIMULUS programme.
STIMULUS is a community service programme which gives Cambridge University students the opportunity to work with pupils in local primary and secondary schools and sixth form colleges, helping with Maths, Science and Computing lessons. Volunteers sign up for a term at a time, working in their assigned school for one afternoon each week.
STIMULUS benefits everyone involved. From the schools' point of view, it is hugely valuable for pupils to have contact with people closer to their age who have a real enthusiasm for their subject. In some schools STIMULUS volunteers help with science practicals; in some they work with particularly able pupils to extend them; in some they help those struggling with GCSE or A level. In primary schools, their expertise is particularly appreciated by non-specialist teachers. In all cases, individual pupils benefit from increased individual attention, and opportunities to discuss their work and develop their understanding.
For the student volunteers, their STIMULUS placement is not only enjoyable and worthwhile but also helps to develop important and valuable transferable skills. Students volunteering in 2012/13 commented in the final placement evaluations on the benefits to their confidence, communication and leadership skills. 100% of the 2012/13 students felt that their STIMULUS placement had made them more confident, and 74% that it had made them better at taking the initiative. 63% of students believed that STIMULUS had improved their communication skills, and 74% that their placements had improved their ability to pitch explanations to different audiences.
For most volunteers, though, the primary motivation for taking part is sharing their love of the subjects they study and the sense that in doing so they are having a real impact on the children and students they work with. "Volunteering is about much more than simply getting something to put on your CV", as one volunteer put it. "It’s about making a real difference and giving something important back."