On 18th April 2018, London Youth Rowing’s (LYR) life skills programme celebrated 44 students graduating from the Breaking Barriers programme.

LYRs 'life skills' mentoring programme, Breaking Barriers, aims to enable motivated youth rowers to flourish as they transition from school into the wider world.

The programme recognises that the soft skills required to be a successful rower, such as time management, communication and teamwork, are also necessary for success in the classroom and in the workplace.

This year students were chosen from schools in south and east London, including nine from St Angela’s Ursuline School, seven from Brampton Manor Academy, 14 from Ark Walworth Academy and 14 from St Michael’s Catholic College.

Moeleek Benjamin, a year 10 student from Ark Walworth Academy said:

‘Being in the programme, I think I’ve learned how to communicate better. I’ve learned how to speak more formally, because normally when I’m with my friends I talk a lot of slang. So being surrounded by adults I needed to learn how to speak formally and Breaking Barriers has helped me with that a lot.’

Juliette Agyeman, also year 10 from Ark Walworth Academy said:

‘I’ve learned about teamwork. In the workplace setting, sometimes you have to work with your colleagues and I think rowing has helped me with that.’

Breaking Barriers students learn to row and are linked with corporate mentors at weekly workshops in order to broaden aspirations, develop life skills and provide future pathways. The programme is about to go into its fifth year, expanding from year 9 and 10 group mentoring into year 12 and 13 personal mentoring.

This year’s Graduation Ceremony, celebrating the Class of 2018, took place at the Tideway offices at London Bridge. It was a spectacular location, looking out over the city and the iconic River Thames. Tideway East is one of Breaking Barriers corporate partners, along with PwC and the Port of London Authority.

Over the course of six months, volunteer mentors lead sessions each week that encourage life skill development. For example, working together as a team to build the tallest and most structurally sound spaghetti and marshmallow towers, against the clock!

After the Graduation Ceremony, François Pogu, Tideway East Project Director and Breaking Barriers mentor said:

‘As always we are delighted to support London Youth Rowing. It is very refreshing and allows us to get back to basics and reality. It is very energising and gives us good spirit to move forward and do our bit to make our world a better one.’

Yvette Jarvis, a teacher from St Angela’s School commented on her student’s involvement in the programme:

‘The care and attention to detail given to the organisation of Breaking Barriers has provided our students with an exceptional opportunity.  The three way relationship between LYR, PLA and St. Angela’s has seen our student’s development a range of skills: communication, teamwork, presentation skills.  Each week the students have been eager to attend their rowing and mentoring sessions and I think that is testament to the quality of the programme.’