Guided by Paula McMahon: My Volunteering Experience

08th Aug 2023

The North East STEM Hub, delivered by RTC North, delivers the STEM ambassador programme for the region. The team is there to support the ambassadors and help them in their journey to inspire the next generation into the world of STEM.

Professionals from all ages and backgrounds can become STEM Ambassadors and enjoy the opportunity to have a direct and significant impact on the success of our regional young people. Volunteering as a STEM Ambassador is an opportunity to promote STEM skills to young learners, actively encouraging them to enjoy STEM subjects and be aware of the exciting careers available.

Blog by Ethan Matuki-Nyambu, Newcastle University – ICE QUEST Scholar

Becoming a STEM Ambassador for me was an opportunity to raise the profile of careers in Civil engineering as it wasn't until recent years that I myself had even heard of the profession despite it having a lasting and continuous impact on our living environment and more. But being only an engineering student, I didn’t know how or where to begin when it came to doing a volunteering event; What would I talk about? How do I present myself? Do I do it on my own? What if my message isn’t clear? Were all questions that I asked myself before I endeavoured into volunteering.

Guided by a Mentor: Paula McMahon's Support

Thankfully, after liaising with my local STEM Hub, I was able to get in contact with Paula McMahon – a Civil Engineer and fellow STEM Ambassador – to ask if I could shadow her and help out with any upcoming volunteering work she had and she was very happy to take me on.

As a result, for my first volunteering event I was at Berwick Hills Primary School to speak to the pupils on topics such as the environment and climate, Highways, and civil engineering as a whole. The talks were mostly driven by the curiosity of the pupils which allowed us to directly respond to their questions with our experience and knowledge of the industry.

From Doubt to Confidence: Learning from Paula

As daunting as it initially was, considering I had no material prepared beforehand, observing from Paula gave me the confidence to share what even little insight I had, and it was so reassuring to have her back me up whenever she handed the floor over to me. At the end of the day, I felt an unusual sense of reward for doing what I did; as young as the pupils were, I learned the value of planting these seeds in youths in order to raise their aspirations from a young age and to expose them to an industry which they may have never previously known about and the countless opportunities that come with it.

Gratitude for Mentorship: Acknowledging Paula McMahon

Ultimately, I owe a lot of this learning to Paula McMahon, to whom I am so grateful that she took me on board to show me the ropes of volunteering in schools. Without her example and advice, I don’t think I’d have built so much confidence so soon for volunteering; I have since took part in Careers fairs, STEM festivals and Open Days all promoting Civil Engineering, taking with me all that I had learnt from Paula. I would love to see this framework of Mentor and Mentee STEM Ambassadors become more adapted with the STEM Ambassador community as I really benefitted from it and I personally know others in my position who may also need that initial guidance into volunteering, to kickstart their journey as Paula did for me!

If you want to find out more about becoming a STEM Ambassador, please visit >> North East STEM Hub :: Support for STEM Ambassadors or contact Dawn at for more information.

Return to list