Second Chance

By Matt Porter, Envision Grad

Matt Porter and his team mates at a debate hosted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission with Trevor Phillips

“I felt like I’d missed out on the first few years of my teens - which is fair enough – that’s what happens – but now it feels like I’ve got that time back. It’s absolutely brilliant. That’s the impact of Envision. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it hadn’t been for Envision and that’s a fact.

When I was 16 - 17 I was a bit of a state; failing my A-levels and not doing particular well. My plan at college was just to get through A-levels; to just survive. Staff at school suggested I find something to do to keep myself busy. They thought having too much free time on my hands was becoming negative.

I looked at the options at school and found Envision.

It was the best decision I’ve ever made. The experience was a real game changer for me – life changing actually.

I think initially it was having control of what we did and how we did which was the attraction for me. Cos every charity comes up volunteer jobs, which say you give X, Y and Z. And yeah, X, Y, and Z are good, they’re fun, they’ll be a nice day out, but when someone goes to you well, ‘what do you care about?’ and ‘what do you want to do about it?’ it makes a massive difference.

But the most important part for me was the reinforcement of having someone week on week saying ‘yes, it’s a good idea’, ‘no, you can do that’ and ‘yes, it’s great’. It’s that positive reinforcement that really builds your confidence.

By the end of the year I was giving a speech at the end of year award ceremony. This guy, me, who couldn’t even talk to the 6 people in his own team, giving a speech to the entire Envision year.

I just didn’t want my Envision experience to finish. That’s how I ended up becoming the first ever Grad Mentor. It didn’t really exist before me. I just turned up on the first day of term and started helping the Envision Coordinator with the new team. It was really, really good and it was that that made me apply for the Youth Internship at Envision the following year.

I couldn’t believe it when I got the internship. That year working at Envision was amazing. I helped look after 3 schools, used my personal experience to help develop the Grad programme, as well as looking after the office, ordering supplies and pretty much all of the IT support.

Before the internship University was never on the cards, but working at Envision I discovered that not only did I have a passion for environmental consultancy, but I had a talent for it as well. I’d always enjoyed science, but I never really knew what to do with it. I hadn’t even heard of Environmental Consultants and I wasn’t aware that there was a need for those things. Now I’m studying Environmental Science at Canterbury University and I plan to go over to work in Australia when I finish.

If it hadn’t been for the internship I wouldn’t have had the organisational skills, or the practical skills to manage University. I wouldn’t have known my limits, or even be able to recognise that I have limits. And I learnt how to touch type! I mean, I’ve gone from being a very, very average to low-skilled A-level student to a consistently First class candidate. I’m a guaranteed 2:1 at university and if I put the work in I will get a First.”

My journey to where I am now absolutely began at school with Envision. My ability to speak to people was just non-existent before. I couldn’t have done it. Now I get top marks in my presentations at University and I’m much better at meeting random people. 

That’s a great skill. Just the social skills that you wouldn’t think - the ones you just take for granted. Socially and confidence wise, Envision has definitely been the biggest impact in my life. It’s the support they’ve given me. Other people will go alright, but here’s a better idea. Envision says, no, whatever it is just do it. No one puts you down, or tells you you’re stupid. It’s that unconditional positive regard to anything you say or do – it really helps.

I can’t get over to you how important this was to my life – it’s been such a big part of my life.”

Without Envision I’d probably still be working in Morrison’s and be miserable. So, even if just one student out of every 2,000 gets the experience I got - it’s worth every penny.”