Graduate story: Ciaron Boles, Labour Party Councillor
Before becoming a student at Leeds Beckett I had achieved 4 Us in my A level mocks and was in a poor state mentally. Fast forward a few years and I am writing this post as a Graduate Teaching Assistant with a first class Politics degree hanging on my wall and having recently been elected as a Labour councillor. I am in no doubt that I owe much of this success to the Politics department at Leeds Beckett and in particular to the volunteering module that allowed me to dip my toe into the waters of local activism.
It seems strange to be writing a blog post about the employability of a university course that taught me to be critical of such a claim; one of the wider readings labels ‘employability’ as a part of the “neoliberal agenda” (Saad-Filho and Johnston, 2005, p.160) and yet this was the beauty of the Leeds Beckett Politics course. The course perfectly blended a critical approach to studying politics as well as a comprehensive education about the core skills that are needed to thrive in the environment that we were critiquing. This perfect blend of critique and employability was most prevalent in the volunteering module of the course. At first the 100 hours of required volunteering seemed like a box ticking exercise and yet this is the part of the course that I would recommend every student grasp with both hands- it is this module that began my journey into becoming a Labour councillor.
Prior to the volunteering module, I had never been directly involved with grassroots activism and so this gave me the opportunity to apply what I had learnt in my degree and use it on the doorstep by attempting to convince people to vote for the Labour party. I will say of that experience what I said about it in my volunteering reflection presentation in 2019 - I loved it! It allowed me to become confident in myself when expressing my political views, allowed me to feel actively involved in the topics that my degree was teaching me about and also gave me valuable experience that I could talk about in job interviews and applications. It is clear to me that without this module I would not have dipped my toe into local activism and would not have become a Labour councillor.
There are many things that I have to thank Leeds Beckett for. It gave me lifelong friends, a critical outlook on politics that is required now more than ever and also engrained in me to shudder at anybody claiming to be coming from a stance of neutrality and objectivity (thanks Dr. Houseman). However, it is more powerful to simply say that I would not be who I am today without the support of the Leeds Beckett Politics department.
Finally, to any student who is about to start their Politics volunteering module, I repeat the words that my lecturer said to me when I started my degree: “the time for activism is now!” (Price, 2016). That statement is as true now as it ever was.