New outlook for community centre thanks to UON graduate

People in the St. James district of town have a reinvigorated community hub thanks to a University of Northampton graduate.

Rachel Bott graduated from UON’s Childhood and Youth (BA) degree in 2017 and is now the Director of the Doddridge Centre, involving a hands-on, sleeves rolled up approach.

She explains: “I have a real passion for helping people and spending time to make a difference in their lives, and this is where I have concentrated my energies since graduating.

“St. James is a hugely diverse community with around 60 languages spoken by residents, obviously making community engagement a struggle for some.

“But where others see a struggle, I see challenges to tackle. So when I saw the advert for the job asking applicants if they were up for this, I thought: “I certainly am! This is definitely the role for me.”

During the pandemic, the Doddridge Centre, like others up and down the country, hadn’t been open as usual. But the newly appointed Rachel was quick to see its potential and was soon on a mission to turn it from an empty space into a vibrant community hub that fully serves the people who live in the area and need it.

And they have already hit their mark. Already, Rachel has hosted the new look Centre’s first networking event for charity and community organisations, with more than 30 outlets turning up to talk about how they can work better work together for the people of St. James.

The Centre hosts a group for toddlers, practical skills workshops to help people navigate a post-Covid world with CV writing and interview skills. The next big project on the agenda is housing the St. James library.

And the community have Rachel’s time at University of Northampton to thank for getting the Centre to this point, as she explains: “I feel so lucky to have had the experiences I had at UON. I was a mature student with two children at home, so university was a big gamble for me.

“Firstly, the placements were absolutely fantastic; learning from those professionals was incredible. No two days were ever the same, and the placements, coupled with volunteering opportunities, instilled in me that desire to give something back.

“The time the lecturers spent with us was amazing; you could just tell it was never a chore for them. But I think my final year was the most beneficial, particularly for the Director role. This was when we learned about business and the management side of running a social enterprise, and all of that is coming to the fore to help make Doddridge the place our community want to visit and use.

“I’d like to give a little more back for the University, so I’m talking with them about having other students from their childhood, youth and families programmes come here for their placements. I’m really keen for them to get the same great learning experience I had and to take what we do here with them wherever they go.”

Find out more about the Doddridge Centre on Facebook and Twitter.

Find out more about the University of Northampton’s Childhood and Youth degree.

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