By Sally Alexander, CEO and Group Principal of MK College Group
When I was appointed as CEO and Group Principal of MK College Group in October last year, I had a very strong vision. I could see that all parts of our College Group should have roots in our communities, going beyond simply hosting fundraising events but developing strong relationships with organisations around us and working with them to have a positive impact in our communities. This, for me, is what our Fairer Futures strategy, and our newest value of Belonging, is all about.
We’d already introduced our College in the Community pledge last summer – this allowed learners and colleagues to have one day’s worth of time per year to volunteer in their local communities. But without structure and guidance, it was challenging for colleagues and learners to find the time to fit this into their already busy schedules. So, we decided to take a leap – we picked a day, added it into the College calendar and stopped timetabled lessons, to ensure that staff and students had the time to take part.
And so College in the Community Day was born! We wanted to make sure that not only were we supporting our local communities at what is a very difficult time for many, but that the projects were also going to enhance our students’ learning experiences and sense of civic pride. That’s why students were involved in planning the activities, as part of their Personal Development programmes. They considered the importance of social action, active citizenship, the wellbeing benefits of volunteering and the transferable skills they could develop during the planning and execution of their projects.
After a lot of planning and teamwork, we were ready to get stuck in on 21st February. 35 projects were set up with more than 600 learners and colleagues taking part. With the projects ranging from more ‘standard’ community activities like litter picking, collecting and packing boxes of supplies for users of the local foodbanks and the YMCA to the more unusual, like helping conserve items at the Milton Keynes museum, producing digital avatars for local charities Willen Hospice and MK Snap, and writing ‘postcards of kindness’ to local care home residents.
I set out to visit as many of the projects as I could and I made it to around a dozen in the end. There were so many moments I’ll treasure: local residents seeing our students out litter picking and sharing a responsibility for their environment; the thanks from local residents who were served a three course lunch from our AA- rated Brasserie which was planned, prepared and served by our students; and seeing our learners practising collaboration and teamwork when resurfacing a path in Great Linford with wood chippings. Plus, it was fantastic to hear about the efforts from our prison staff and learners who have been taking part in activities such as fundraising for local charities.
It was fantastic to see students developing their skills, staff (including our Strategic Leadership and Executive Leadership teams) pitching in alongside our learners, and everyone learning about our local communities and the challenges faced by the charities and community groups supporting them. What will also stay with me is how engaged, motivated and enthusiastic everyone was throughout the day; it was wonderful to see.
While our first ever College in the Community Day is completed, this is only the beginning. We’re committed to this becoming an annual event, embedded into the College’s calendar. It will become a point of focus, a way of developing ongoing projects from activities carried out on the day and an event that will help us to drive our Fairer Futures strategy forward. I can’t wait to see what our colleagues and learners will achieve next time!
Read more about the College in the Community Day here .