Having seen the emails from university about the awards, I thought I’d take a look and the award for Impactful Social Action alongside my degree pretty much embodied all that I try to do in my spare time.

In light of this, I decided to set the time aside to do the application and see where it got me. If all else failed, it was a good practice of getting comfortable with tests needed for applications for jobs in the future! The application process was a really good chance to be able to really think about why this award was for me and reflect on the work I’d been doing whilst at university.

When I got the email that I had been invited to the assessment centre, I was so nervous as this would be my first ever assessment centre experience. Having known about Teach First for a while and having an interest in teaching, I knew that whatever happened, it would be a worthwhile experience.

On the morning of my assessment, I woke up to the mayhem that the snow had created! Nevertheless, I had my tickets and made the journey from Leicester to London. On my journey, I looked over the skills and qualities they were expecting us to show over the course of the assessment and thought about the ways in which I’ve embodied them in the work I do.

Arriving at the assessment centre and meeting all of the other candidates was a wonderful experience. Meeting a group of people that had gone after doing all they could to create impactful social action in their communities and discuss this with them was a really interesting part of the day and really valuable in creating an atmosphere that was supportive.

We then had presentations from both Teach First and #iwill. The presentations were both so interesting as they were delivered by people who had experienced first hand the impact that teaching and youth work makes in the lives of individuals.

The rest of the day was our chance to showcase what we did and why we should be considered as the Undergraduate of the Year for Impactful Social Impact. I don’t think I could have had a better group to spend the day with. I’m still in touch with many of them and have a collaboration coming up with one of them this autumn.

Receiving an email that I was one of the finalists was a total surprise. Having left the assessment day unsure of how it went as it was my first time, I totally wasn’t expecting it! After a few weeks, spring had arrived and the sunshine was out for a lovely day in London at the ceremony.

Arriving at the ceremony was slightly overwhelming as there were so many incredible people there! It was lovely seeing some of the candidates from the assessment day and catching up and celebrating. The space in which the event was hosted was lovely and the sunshine was a nice change from the snowy day of the assessment centre.

Finally, after the drinks reception, we all made it to our seats and this was a lovely chance to really talk to all of the finalists in my category and find out more about them and their work and listen to what they’re all most passionate about!

It was exciting to meet representatives from #iwill and Teach First and catch up with Julia Cleverdon DVCO CBE, who I had met previously. It was wonderful to meet all of these people in industry who were really committed to and passionate about young people changing the worlds around them.

It was completely surreal to be announced as the inaugural Undergraduate of the Year for Social Impact, especially alongside a stellar list of finalists who do so, so much for their communities, and beyond.

This summer, I will be taking part in Teach First’s Taster Programme and the Drivers for Change tour. It’s set to be a busy summer and I’m sure the fitbit I was given as part of my prize will have a good time tracking all the work I’ll be having fun doing.

We caught up with Mercy to see how she got on...

Drivers for Change was a 12-day trip with 100 people that was so much more fun, inspiring and thought-provoking than I had anticipated. It was incredible to be able to arrive in cities I’d never had reason to visit before, and learn so much and be grateful for the social enterprise that was taking place there. It has completely changed how I approach travelling, and given me a hunger to learn about the history and ongoing work it takes to make each city thrive in its unique way.

Teach First’s ‘Taster Programme’ is a unique and fun way to experience teaching. I had a great time being able to visit a Teach First school before the programme. This was an interesting day as I got to see the kind of difference and freedom Teach First tries to encourage in the teachers it helps build. Meeting other students and learning about the different things that go into being a teacher was really insightful and has given me a sense of clarity on how I feel about teaching.