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The Wow Effect: Weekend School Pupils Return to Wijnhaven

The last time they visited Campus The Hague was back in March, the pupils from The Hague department of ICM Weekend School. On Sunday 13 September, they were finally able to continue their lessons, corona proof. A report of the kick-off for the new school year for third-year pupils and their parents, who were also invited.

The kick-off of the new year at weekend school @fgga

Not quite sure what to expect, the children from IMC Weekend School enter the Campus The Hague using the revolving door. Arrows, fixed routes, demarcations, disinfection columns. The 12-and 13-year-olds are familiar with the building, but this 'new normal' takes some getting used to. Since last year , Leiden University's Wijnhaven location has hosted the Weekend School on Sundays, but due to corona, the pupils and teachers have been unable to make use of their new home. The lessons continued online with the occasional on-site visit, but it had been a while since they were able to meet up in the class room. 

Role models

Children between the ages of 10 and 14 from vulnerable neighbourhoods in The Hague can attend the 3-year programme run by the Weekend School. Enabling them to follow free additional schooling on Sundays. The project is financed by sponsors and donations. The aim is to help prepare these children for their future career and educational choices.  

The pupils are taught by guest teachers who introduce them to subjects and professions that these group of inquisitive children would not normally come into contact with. 'Learning about later. That's what we're doing here', explains Raisa Sidhoe, third year coordinator.  'In grammar school they're taught how to read and write and do maths, but these children are not likely to come into contact with an astronomer, a lawyer, or a heart surgeon. They're missing role models, they might see them on TV, but that's still very remote. So when, during Weekend School, you’re able to meet a guest teacher from such a field of expertise in a small and intimate setting, that's quite a special feeling. That person came here especially for you and your class. That leaves an impression.' 

Alumni Network

One of the items on the agenda for the third-years this Sunday is informing them about the Alumni Network of the Weekend School. What applies to the university also applies to the Weekend School: once you have obtained your diploma, you will remain an alumnus for the rest of your life. 'We'll practice using that name during the year', smiles Raisa. To start the school year, the pupils and parents gather in the big auditorium to watch a video made by the pupils themselves. The video clearly shows that the pupils are looking forward to their role as soon-to-be alumni. Raisa: 'We want to inspire and motivate them. And show them that everything is possible.'

Arthur van Dam tells his story @fgga

Choose their own path

Alumni sharing stories are not the only motivation this Sunday, there is also the personal story of student Arthur van Dam who obtained his bachelor's degree Public Administration this summer. 'I never thought I'd end up at university', says Arthur. 'I thought I wasn't smart enough. I started by doing MBO, took the long way round, but I did it anyway.'

Musa (12) wants Arthur to explain how he managed to do it. And if, before, he had been more interested in chilling with friends. 'I'm still chilling with friends, but when I was younger that was indeed what I'd rather be doing. I chose my own path and that's what I want to share with you. Learn from your mistakes, ask to see the results of your tests so you can see what you did wrong and learn from it. Follow your heart, do things at your own pace, and by all means do something you enjoy' 'Yes, you can do it', a smiling Musa finishes Arthur's story. To immediately blurt out another one-liner: 'Never give up.' 

Stay involved

Weekend School alumni Ahmed, Lamyae and Vinay urge the children to keep being involved with the school after Weekend School ends and to make use of the alumni programme. 'You'll get to know a lot of people, are able to attend all kinds of cool masterclasses or become an ambassador', explains Lamyae.

Or receive assistance finding an internship, like Vinay and Ahmed. 'I went to Brussels for a masterclass, was able to visit the most powerful political bulwark in Europe and able to arrange an internship at the same time' explains Ahmed. Vinay learned how to speak in public, followed the ambassador training, was able to intern at a 'fancy' law firm thanks to the alumni network and is now studying technical business administration at the HBO. 'And, who knows, maybe I'll go on to study at university', he says proudly.

Wow Effect

Being able to wander around the university every Sunday is also a source of inspiration for the children, says Raisa. She calls it the 'wow effect'. 'My colleagues immediately noticed the difference, when we moved to this location last year. University was something that sounded like something far away for parents and children. Now you see the 'wow effect'. They can say: Wow, each Sunday I get to go to the university. It really lowers the threshold for them. For the children, but also for the parents.' Or as Musa would say: ‘Yes, you can do it.’

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