Every year, dozens of young men and women finish their studies at Step Up. But Step Up is more than an place where you get an education – it is also a community; somewhere you can find help and support; and a place to meet friends.
We pride ourselves on the fact that many of graduates stay in touch with us after their studies are over, continue to take part in events – and sometimes even volunteer to help at the centre.
In recent years, Step Up has begun to organise reunions for graduates – a day when we gather together all the graduates from the centre so everyone can find out what each other has been up to, re-connect with teachers and classmates, meet current students and find out what’s going on at Step Up.
This year, we held our graduate reunion in a slightly different format – as a film festival! Some of our graduates, current students and volunteers showed films that they had made, and then there was a chance to ask the creators questions and share opinions and impressions.
The films included a documentary shot by one of our volunteers about a remote region of northern Russia and the reindeer herders who live there.
The work of Step Up would not be possible without a dedicated team of staff and volunteers — from teachers and sports coaches to photographers and managers. Andrei is one of the psychologists working at Step Up. He and his wife, Yekaterina, are particularly involved in Step Up’s work placement schemes and career-guidance programs that help introduce our students to the world of work, and aid them in their search for the professions that they want to pursue. We asked Andrei a couple of questions
Why do Step Up students need career-guidance?
If you start talking to the younger groups about 80 percent of the boys say that they want to be programmers even though they don’t understand what that really means. In class, we provide consultations and help the students understand themselves. Where do they want to end up, what direction do they need to be moving in? We try and cover all the necessary topics, while also focusing on the needs of each individual group. We try and make sure that the students can make a conscious choice about what to aim for — and what profession to choose — when they graduate.
Why are you a part of this project?
I am at the sort of age when I don’t just want to live for myself — but to give something back. I’ve got very varied experience, in both life and work. The students are always surprised to discover that I was a doctor, and also worked as a street cleaner and window-washer. They listen to my stories carefully, and draw conclusions for themselves.
When Zhenya was sixteen, he finished college and began work in a factory that makes equipment for ships. He has been a mechanic in this factory ever since. He began attending classes at Step Up in 2018. Here is his story in his own words:
“At school we were given the choice of becoming a joiner or a mechanic — that was all [young people graduating from correctional schools are routinely given a limited selection of courses they can study at college]. So, I chose mechanic.
At the factory, they know that I study at an evening school — I don’t hide it. Of course, they’re a bit nervous that I will leave early, but I need to be here [at Step Up] at 4pm. I get up at 6am, I work until 3pm and then, at 4pm, I have to be at evening school. That’s been my schedule for the last three years.
I want to finish studying and take up a different profession. In one word: I want to develop. I'd like to be able combine a career as an engineer with history... I was always interested in history.
I come to Step Up in order to study. I feel how the world around me is changing. For example, in how I socialise with people. If you have contact with intelligent people, you find out things and then you can use them in real life. At some point, I decided that this is all necessary for me.”
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