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Aoc rising leaders

Sport Student Shines on AoC's Rising Leaders Programme

The programme, now in its second year, is funded by The Football Association (FA) and delivered by the Association of Colleges (AoC) Sport as part of their commitment to developing greater equality and opportunities to ensure that more diverse female students aspire to work and volunteer within football.

This is the first year the programme has been trialled in the Midlands and is particularly focused on encouraging female applicants from historically underrepresented groups such as Black, Asian, Mixed or other ethnic backgrounds with the aim of increasing resilience, motivation, communication skills and more.

Maryanne Nzegbuna, a BTEC Level 3 Sport and Andy Griffin Football Academy (AGFA) learner at Newcastle College was chosen to take part in the programme earlier this year after her lecturers encouraged her to apply.

Todd Bailey, Curriculum Leader in Sport and Public Services at Newcastle College, said: “Since starting here in September, Maryanne has thrown herself into every opportunity and has fully embraced College life which is why we put her forward for the Rising Leaders programme. We had to submit a nomination and interested students also had to apply and go through an interview process.

“Maryanne has developed her football abilities and we have seen significant growth personally since taking part in the three-month programme. She has been able to feedback to us some of the sessions she took part in so we can implement more inclusion and engagement within the BME community so it’s been incredibly worthwhile.”

Maryanne, who plays as a forward for the College’s football team, said: “Being chosen to take part was a great experience. I met lots of BME students from other colleges and it was nice to meet people from all around the UK who had similar interests and experiences as me.

“The programme was started to create awareness for girls who are interested in football and to help offer guidance and support to encourage them to keep doing what they love. It definitely inspired me and has made me want to help others too.

“My own personal experiences of grassroots football have been mostly positive. Teams want diversity so my experiences have been good but it was interesting speaking to people on the programme and finding out more about their personal experiences.”

During the programme, Maryanne and the cohort of 12 visited Coventry City FC, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and also watched the Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley in May. They also benefited from meeting a wide range of people who volunteer and work within football.

“If they hold another and I get the opportunity to apply again, I definitely will. I made friends for life and it was great to share this experience with them.”

Find out more about the Andy Griffin Football Academy and our sports programmes here.