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Raising the aspirations of the next generation


Hull and East Yorkshire Children’s University (HEYCU) was established over twenty years ago to expand the horizons of children across the region.

We spoke with the Director of the charity, Natasha Barley, to find out how it improves the lives of thousands of local kids each year.

“Deputy Head, John Buttrick, set up what was then called Hull Children’s University,” says Natasha. “He wanted to raise children's aspirations so that they could go on to live more fulfilled lives. This is achieved by creating opportunities for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

In Hull, 1 in 3 children grow up in poverty and the city has the highest percentage of unemployment in the country.

“By showing young people some of the stuff they can achieve, the places they can go, we can break the cycle of deprivation,” adds Natasha

HEYCU does this by offering pupils in local schools a chance to take part in educational programmes and experience days, which give them a taster of the jobs and lives they could have in the future.

Partnering up with local businesses and national organisations, the Children’s University enables young people to see what it’s like to work in all sorts of roles, such as marine biologist, archaeologist, scientist, firefighter, hotel manager and even CEO. The latest addition is a day out at Hull’s Centre for Digital Innovation, the C4DI. Here, the children can get an overview of some of the businesses based at the building, enjoy an introduction to coding, and even try out Pixelbot robots.

Some of the other exciting trips include visits to the Houses of Parliament, a sleepover at the Natural History Museum, and a walk along Bempton Cliffs to learn about the magnificent seabirds that flock there.

“We want the children to see that the world goes a lot further than the end of their street,” enthuses Natasha. “We help them to raise their ambitions and feel proud of our city.”

Hull UK City of Culture 2017 was unsurprisingly a wonderful year for the charity. Not only was the whole city boosted by the plethora of inspiring cultural events, but the Children’s University managed to reach almost 6,000 pupils in the East Riding. The charity also managed to secure much-needed funding to continue to expand its services.

More recently, Natasha had the privilege of representing the charity in front of Queen Elizabeth II. Her Royal Highness invited HEYCU to a Buckingham Palace reception to celebrate the achievements of the Commonwealth Diaspora community.

“It was an absolute privilege to represent my Canadian homeland and HEYCU. Receiving Her Majesty the Queen’s recognition of our charitable work is incredible. We have a fantastic team and amazing businesses that support our work, and they are all very excited about this phenomenal opportunity,” says Natasha.

The charity is continuously looking for more volunteers to help out during day trips, alongside fundraisers to organise events that raise awareness and money for the cause. Meanwhile, they are always searching for new businesses and organisations to collaborate with, so if you would like to host an experience day, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact Hull and East Yorkshire Children’s University on 01482 466045 or visit the team in their offices on Salmon Grove.

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