SCHOOL REPORT MENTORS

Rachael Smith (right) with School Reporters from Whitley Academy in Coventry Rachael Smith (right) with School Reporters from Whitley Academy in Coventry

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Volunteering for me is a very important part of my work ethic. So when I joined the BBC in 2007, I jumped at the chance to become a School Report mentor.

The project gives 11-16 year-old students in the UK the chance to make their own news reports for a real audience, and each year I put my name forward to work with schools in the West Midlands.

The year of 2012 brought some fantastic and memorable experiences with the schools that I have mentored.

Highlights include watching the Olympic torch being made in my home city with pupils whose family worked in the factory, and seeing the skills develop with these pupils - some of whom had never interviewed before.

I also helped mentor pupils as they interviewed American track-and-field Olympic athletes in front of a packed stadium full of other journalists.

'Pride'

I feel privileged to be a part of the pupil's story development, because the schools I work with have so much passion and hunger for news and for telling a story.

Rachael Smith working as a mentor at Penn Fields Special School, Wolverhampton Rachael Smith working as a mentor at Penn Fields Special School, Wolverhampton

I have been involved with everything from scripting and filming through to photography and written text, depending on what teachers need and want.

The variety involved in volunteering expands my expectations each year as pupils come up with more imaginative ways of delivering the news, which keeps my skills as a journalist fresh and relevant.

Once a year BBC News School Report schools take part in an annual News Day, simultaneously creating video, audio and text-based news reports, and publishing them on a school website, to which the BBC aims to link.

As a mentor I feel a lot of pride on that day when I see the final work that has been produced by schools.

Knowing I have helped make that happen is a truly uplifting feeling and the reason I consider volunteer work an important part of my career at the BBC.

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