Reflections | Empowering our learners to bloom where they are planted
Our former Programs Lead Valerie reflects on her journey with the students from our flagship Impact Program, the Hatch Customised Immersive. She fervently believes that they have just as much potential but are held back because of circumstances. “You can’t judge a book by its cover”, after all, we humans are complex beings.
This reflection was written in November 2020.
Hello, my name is Valerie and I am the Programs Lead at Hatch. It has been 1 year since I first joined Hatch! There has been many ups and downs; paperwork, meetings, planning aplenty, endless programs… just like a rollercoaster ride. I have seen two batches of Immersive students through their learning journey, and I cannot wait to share these experiences with you!
Hatch’s journey first started with our Flagship Impact Program, the Hatch Customised Immersive. We designed the program to empower youths between the ages of 16 and 25 from varying backgrounds through skills and on-the-job training in emerging digital design sectors of Digital Marketing and User Interface, User Experience (UI/UX). These youths can come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Some of them are at-risk youths, sharing common characteristics that include (but are not limited to) troubled, broken, or low-income families.
The Hatch Customised Immersive is a by-referral basis program — all our youths are referred to us by youth organisations, case managers, social workers and even our alumni. There are a few admission criteria for joining the program. Staying true to Hatch’s social mission, they are not based on educational qualifications but instead, the individual’s motivation and character.
You might be thinking, ‘How do we measure these intangible components?’. I agree with you, it is difficult! That is why we adopt a continuous assessment model which we consistently review after each program cycle. All participants have to attend a mandatory Exposure Day, where we meet face-to-face (but due to COVID-19, the recent round was carried out online), and get to know a little more about each other and the program. Hatch would then conduct fun learning activities that introduce the idea of Digital Marketing and User Interface, User Experience (UI/UX). At the same time, Exposure Day also gives us opportunities to observe how our potential students interact with each other.
“You will not be able to know a person well enough just through the first meeting”.
This saying is definitely true. Following this, we will conduct an interview to determine whether the students are suitable to join the program. After the potential students are enrolled, our team continues to monitor their behaviours and progress throughout the program. If the students show any indications of being unsuitable for our program, we would have a discussion with them to find out what the potential problems are and how we could support them. However, if it involves matters that are beyond what the Hatch team and the program can offer, students would then consider withdrawing from the program.
This does not mean a permanent closed-door though, some of the students rejoin us again in the future when their circumstances better allow them to do so. This typically happens during our “Orientation Week”, which is also the first week of the program.
During the program that spans eight weeks long with two additional weeks of project development, I oversee the students’ well-being as well as the career preparation and socio-emotional learning (CPSEL) classes on Mondays. Getting to know the students well requires me to actively listen all the time and this is the highlight of my job! This is because the students come from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences, and at times, they have taught me more than what I am able to offer them.
Often times I find myself wondering how I can make the system better? The system of social, personal and environmental settings that the student is in. What can possibly create the first ripple of change that can help students avoid the experiences that some of their seniors have had to go through?
Therein lies the debate. Do these youths want the change or is it my own or society’s interest that wants the change? Admittedly, there were instances when I was driven by my self-fulfilment. This stemmed from my desire for our students’ living circumstances to be associated with notions that I perceive as ‘good’. From my conversations with them, there is a handful who want to change their circumstances. Some succeed, while others find it hard to break out of the vicious yet all too familiar cycle of influence and transference. Conversations with these students generally revolve around family, friends, themselves and the unknown future. Often, these conversations invoke strong feelings that require a lot of determination to manage how I respond.
Having to balance between being a Hatch facilitator and a friend, there are so many layers that are grey in the relationship. In the long run, some might develop the habit of over-reliance while some grow into cold relationships. All these can be quite overwhelming at times. I do have moments where I slip up, turning to others to seek advice or having to take more time out to ponder over my thoughts. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for these endless exchanges, because regardless of where each of us comes from, as long as the other party is willing, it is a genuine human-to-human connection.
Walking through the learning journey together with the students makes it worthwhile. Just imagine everyone as different seeds who are growing at different paces and blooming into different beings. It is a diverse garden of knowledge and experiences that create a community where you can be unafraid to become a better version of yourself. It is very heartening to see how they grow and change. This has, in turn, shaped my personal growth as well. The students’ presence, their stories, their growth, their expressions, are what makes the whole ten weeks and beyond, an album of moments to cherish and times to look back to when the going gets tough.
As I’m wrapping up my personal reflections, I want to sneak this chance to say thank you to all the amazing people who trusted me and shared with me your adventures and stories! It definitely made the whole experience so much more meaningful — beyond just another training program.
And most importantly, I am so thankful that I have an amazing team, and my teammate/boss/buddy Liying, who had my back throughout the whole process.
Thank you all, for being unapologetically yourselves!