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Kayla chats about Volunteering and joining a Trustee Board.
Our Volunteering Coordinator, Alison McNaughton, and CEO, Manish Joshi, caught up with former Strath Union president, Kayla Meghan Burns, during Volunteering and Employability week. They covered all things volunteering, including Kayla’s journey from Youth Groups to chairing a charity board.
I started my volunteer journey as a teenager, by joining the Scouts band, playing brass and teaching some younger people as well. We played in nursing homes, that was where it all started from - that passion towards music. I ended up running a weekly session in a youth centre, for young people to come and jam and play music and mess about. That was the focus of all of my volunteering when I was younger, it was just ‘let’s go out let’s have some fun’, it was never ‘I’m going to save the world!’ The more involved I got, the more opportunities came up and we were even able to gain qualifications in some cases. From there, I got involved in peer education and a buddy project for autistic peers.
At that time, as a teenager, I was offered a position on the trustee board of my local youth centre. That’s the part in the story where I’d love to be like ‘yeah I really went for it and I got a lot out of it and it was amazing and set me on a path for trustee boards’ but that’s not what happened. I just panicked, I’d never heard of what a trustee board was before. And I just didn’t see what I could bring to the table – so I decided that that’s just not for me. So I didn’t bother, and didn’t acknowledge the opportunity that could’ve been.
When I came to Strathclyde, that’s when volunteering really made an impact in my life. I was the first one in my family to finish school and go to University, and it had been drilled into to me to make the most of the experience. It was a privilege to go and therefore it was my job to make the most out of the opportunity. And so that’s what I did. I’d been given the confidence from my volunteering opportunities to know that I can just go and try it. I can just find out. And so, whenever I came to Strathclyde, I tried everything, wakeboarding kayaking, band, concert band, skateboarding, fencing, you name it – I tried it. Going out and doing those things made me feel more comfortable and helped me to adjust to Glasgow - as of course you miss home when moving to a new place, especially at a young age. It just helped me build that sense of community here.
I ended up becoming President of the Band Society and after that it got a bit crazy. When student elections rolled around in my second year of uni, I remember being stopped by a member of union staff in the street. They recognised me from coming into the office with Band Society things. You should stand for elections, I think you’d be really good at it. Full disclosure, who knows how many people that was said to that day! But I was going out and trying out things, so I thought “I could be really good at it”. I gave it a go with a mindset of “I know I’m the least qualified candidate”.
Little did I know that I would then win that election and not only spend the year as VP Community but then actually go on to win another election the next year and become President.
That was when the trustee boards actually started to come in because whenever you are VP Community, you get onto union's trustee board and I was also chosen to go on the university's board as well – “University Court”. I spent two years on each, in the second year chairing the Union’s board as President as well as countless committees, and that was absolute transformative for me. That was whenever everything really kicked up because it was a scenario of suddenly, I've gone from your standard student just trying my best and not being sure of what I want to do, to this “driving seat” scenario where it was all go. There was such a steep learning curve but I was determined to make it happen. All of this came from volunteering and just giving it a go - so if you’re on the fence or want to get more into leadership roles and volunteering, then don’t hold back! Put yourself out there and give it a go.
I think as a young person, there’s always the fear of finances, the big decisions, the strategy. You might be thinking, I don’t have those skills. But the main thing is, those skills can be learnt but your lived experience and unique point of view can’t be. That’s what you have to offer.
Strath Union’s CEO, Manish Joshi, says: "All the research tells us, what we need is diversity of thought and experience round the table when it comes to making decisions and that’s as important in a leadership team as it is in a student committee, as it is on a trustee board. All Student Trustees receive a full induction and we have a buddying process in place to support you to get as much out of the experience as possible. It’s great experience for your CV and in terms of future employability."
"Joining a board might sound intimidating, or like something you need to wait and do once you have more experience, but I’d encourage any of you to think about it and apply. The particular experience you bring, for example, a younger person, as a digital native, your unique experience and understanding the world around you, this is what charity boards need. Showing up, being consistent and persistent with people is key to getting the most from volunteering."
If you have any questions about volunteering, please get in touch with our Volunteering team