Ambassador Reflections: From Ambassador to Councillor

Alister Brady, Lead Ambassador, Debating Tutor and Outreach Tutor, shares his experiences on the Ambassador Scheme and his journey to becoming recently elected Kent County Councillor for Canterbury City North. We wish him all the best in his new role and thank him for the work he has done for Outreach in his three years in the Ambassador Scheme.

I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to everyone in the Outreach Team, from the full-time staff to every tutor and ambassador. The work you do is incredibly important and really does make a difference. Your guidance, knowledge, friendship, and support provided to myself, other ambassadors, and the students within the Kent and Medway education system is invaluable and really does have a lasting impact on people’s lives.

On the 7th of May 2021 it was announced that I had been successful in becoming the Kent County Councillor for Canterbury City North – the district which I live and grew up in. A small team of volunteers and I knocked on hundreds of doors, delivered over 5000 leaflets, and walked over 100 miles to spread the word that local elections do matter – my step count in the last two weeks before election day read over 280,000 steps and the hard work really did pay off. We had secured 1,951 votes with a majority of 871 votes – a victory for my friends and volunteers as much as it is mine. Without a fantastic team this would not have been possible.

It was interesting, but not surprising, to see that the key values and skills gained through my time as an ambassador, outreach tutor, and a debating tutor played a significant part in the outcome. We learn the importance of working in a team from day one. How we plan for our work opportunities with prepared lesson plans, staff and tutor guidance throughout the sessions, and team debriefings post event. During work opportunities, we meet new people both to work with and to present to, which gives us confidence in communicating, improving our interaction skills. My advice is to apply for as many work opportunities as your academic obligations allow. Strive for additional responsibilities – if you become a Lead Ambassador you will gain organisational skills and acquire the ability to lead by example inside a team. As an Outreach Tutor, my presentation skills improved significantly; by challenging myself, I became confident in overcoming adverse situations. This ability positively impacted my decision to apply to be a political candidate, participate in the selection process, and be successful in this aim. Therefore, as you read this and if deep down you want to become a Tutor, do it. If you are not successful the first time, the team are brilliant at developing you so you can apply again.

During the campaign I took part in two online hustings – these are live debate/question and answer sessions which all candidates take part in. For the past 10 months I was fortunate enough to act as a Debating Tutor, which prepared me well for the online hustings events I took part in. This role has been one of the most personally rewarding positions I have held at University, as you develop a group of students over the course of 6 weeks, and sometimes beyond. You see their communication and debating abilities improve dramatically. On an individual level, I sharpened my own debating techniques which I was able to use during the live husting events.

My three years as an Ambassador/Outreach tutor, and one year as Lead Ambassador/Debating Tutor, developed me as an individual who was confident enough to apply to be a political candidate. We all have the ability to gain skills through our outreach work that can help in our personal lives – the interview that you are unsure of, the work placement that you have doubts about, the social gathering that brings about the feeling of anxiety. Outreach work helps you challenge the apprehension which we all feel and has a positive impact on our daily experiences. I haven’t even mentioned the incredible impact we have on students’ lives, and the extraordinary work the team does in encouraging school children of all ages to dream big, aim high, and most importantly to believe in themselves. Perhaps that’s for another blog, but for now let’s all start believing more in our own abilities – I found that during my time within the Outreach Team it certainly help me do that!