Meet the mentor: Jack Hughes

Today we’ve been chatting with one of our Manchester mentors and hearing about how Citywise is “the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to him and he can’t imagine life without us”*. Wow, he sounds pretty full-on. Anyway, let’s welcome Jack Hughes, maybe he’s not as weird as he seems!

So Jack, tell us a bit about who you are, where you come from and why you’re in Manchester?

I’m 20 years old and originally from a small town in Northern Ireland called Dungannon. I came to Manchester in September 2016 to begin my studies in Law with Politics at the University of Manchester. However, after one year of doing that I realised it wasn’t for me and I decided to pursue something I liked a lot more and that was education. I am now finishing my first year of English Language for Education at the University of Manchester. It’s funny because if I hadn’t switched degrees I would probably never have found Citywise as it was exploring the Freshers Fair in a frantic attempt to get to know my new course mates that I bumped into Dave at the Citywise stall and he persuaded me to come along to the first training session.

Aha! So our wonderful recruitment tactics paid off! You just knew you needed some Citywise in your life?

Umm…it’s more like you guys knew you needed me! Honestly, it was pure curiosity, I always felt I had a lot of advice to give (just because that’s an element of my personality in general)…

So it’s true what they say about the Irish gift of the gab…?

Quiet please I’m talking!


Anyway as I was saying, once I heard about the purpose of the Citywise mentoring scheme that day I thought “why not?”. I felt if I could even make one kid’s life a little bit better and share my own life experience through the fabulous curriculum developed by our own Hana Bútorová, then that would be worth it. It also meant I’d get direct experience in a school environment and test out whether teaching as a career would be something I would enjoy.

“they come in week after week and are really engaged in what we have to say and have developed the ability to reflect on the impact of their own actions”

And what have you discovered?

Citywise for sure has taught me how to tackle situations that can sometimes be a little sensitive as all the young people we come into contact with come from a range of different backgrounds. It has also taught me that we can make such a huge impact on a young person’s life via this kind of mentoring and it is something I really want to enforce in my teaching style when I finally qualify as a teacher – the national curriculum is of course important but this goes to show that sometimes schools really can’t teach everything and it’s things like Citywise that really make a huge impact on the young people’s lives.

So you’ve seen a difference in the young people on your project?

The project I took part in this year had a mixed bag of characters when it came to the kids; some were quite disruptive, some quite shy, and others who weren’t so noticeably one way or another but just needed someone to vent to and be listened to. Throughout the project, it is so clear that the young people have grown in themselves so much; they come in week after week and are really engaged in what we have to say and have developed the ability to reflect on the impact of their own actions on their own lives and the lives of others. When I first got my mentee I felt there was no way I’d get as attached to him and him to me, but as the project nears an end it definitely is pretty emotional as you’re able to see the potential in them as a person and realise that it’s now up to them to put everything they’ve learned into use – a proud parent moment so to speak. Also, the fact that they tell you that they’ve genuinely missed you when you haven’t been to a session for one reason or another is pretty heart-warming, I’m not going to lie!

That’s what Citywise is all about: warm fuzzy feelings inside!

So true! Citywise, as corny as it might sound, is a huge family. When I first started university I never put myself out there to make friends or join anything extra-cirricular because despite my extrovert exterior I can be pretty shy sometimes. However, when I came to Citywise everyone was so welcoming and just genuinely lovely people who were all there to achieve the same mission with these young people. I know for a fact I’ll keep in touch with fellow mentors for years to come, as well as the staff. But you’ll probably be sick of me if I hang around for another 3 years.

Of course we won’t, that will be lovely (eek!). Ok, last thing, tell us why you love working with young people?

I love working with young people because it is genuinely very fulfilling. You have in front of you a kid whose life is ahead of them and they have so much potential. So, being able to be a part of guiding them down a path in life where they follow the virtues of fairness, self-control, resilience, and good judgement, brings a smile to my face. You can sit back and be like “I did my little bit to help”. Young people also teach you lessons too! Sometimes in adult life it is very easy to forget what it was like to be a kid and be innocent and have no big responsibilities, so the young people remind you to smile now and again, have fun, be silly and just go for it. This is pretty evident in games we play, sometimes the mentors get lost in it and are bigger kids than the kids (the ‘King of the Jungle’ game in particular always makes me chuckle.)

Ah yes, everyone loves making a complete fool of themselves to help kids learn about character!

The things I do for Citywise! Well, at least it’s taught me to take risks and just jump feet first into a new challenge! I don’t regret doing this one bit, it’s honestly been awesome and I can’t wait for next year already.

*Ahem…our words, not his.