A Forensic Psychology student at Leeds Trinity is ready for life beyond her degree after gaining real-life experience of working in a prison.
Final year student Devon Bennett, 20, has been volunteering at HMYOI Doncaster for the past 12 months, spending several days a week offering support with 'at risk' prisoners. It was an "eye-opening" experience for Devon, who is now considering working in prisons after she has graduated:
"I was a little unsure on whether I would ever want to work in a prison or if I even could. It's an extremely challenging environment and one that's definitely not for everyone. However, after my experience at Doncaster prison I would definitely consider it in the future.
"Working in a male prison was an extremely nerve-wracking experience but I shocked myself at how comfortable and how at ease I was when working there, even though I was facing and talking to prisoners on a daily basis."
Devon had to face a number of challenges during her time at the prison, witnessing self-harming and violence amongst prisoners, but she did not shy away from anything she encountered:
"Before starting my volunteering I told myself I wouldn't shy away from any challenges, so I just gave it my all and did everything that was asked of me. The best thing was seeing the impact I made. Even now the prisoners are still asking when I'm coming back and saying that the prison isn't the same without me and my 'positive personality'.
As well as the confidence that Devon has gained, volunteering has also contributed to her studies. Being able to apply her experiences at the prison to the theory taught in lectures made studying an "easier and more natural process".
Volunteering has also enhanced her career prospects. Devon made some invaluable contacts during her time there and the prison are keen to keep in contact with her beyond her degree. Devon added:
"I'm so glad I chose to take this opportunity. I know they are keen to speak to me once I've finished my degree and the Director of the prison was even trying to find me a part-time vacancy before I graduate that would fit around my study."
Volunteering opportunities are a significant part of what's on offer for Leeds Trinity students and it's a great chance to gain experience in their area of work in a fun and rewarding way. Carol Green, who is the Volunteering Coordinator at Leeds Trinity, said:
"We are in contact with some amazing voluntary organisations, and we are lucky that so many of them offer great volunteering opportunities for our students.
"Volunteering is so beneficial, not just to the people and causes that are being supported, but the addition to a student's CV can make all the difference when it comes to employability."
Devon is now going into her final year at Leeds Trinity and recommends that fellow students should follow in her footsteps. She added:
"I would highly recommend volunteering to any student because there's nothing to lose from it. I was aware of how hard it is for students to get jobs after graduating but volunteering makes this so much easier. I feel that through this opportunity I have gained the experience and the direct contacts needed to find employment in what I want to do."
Leeds Trinity offers a range of volunteering opportunities across a range of subject areas which have been built from established relationships with local, regional and national organisations.Find out more about Leeds Trinity's volunteering opportunities