Sunderland graduate Sacha Pattison’s community outreach work is helping to shape the future of a 14th century castle undergoing a major restoration.

Sacha began volunteering at the Hylton Castle Project in the final year of her English degree at the University of Sunderland, breathing new life into this ancient building transforming it into a new community-based, heritage-led visitor attraction that celebrates the stories of the location from the late 14th century to the present day.

After running a number of successful history-based workshops in local schools, designed to inspire the next generation with the castle’s legacy, the 21-year-old has been asked to oversee another engagement project – a short story competition.

Hylton Castle Stories, is the very first children’s short story writing competition for four-to-14 year olds across Sunderland, in collaboration with the University.

Youngsters are being asked to let their imaginations run wild, and pen stories inspired by Hylton Castle, Hylton Dene or both.

Winners will be announced during the Sunderland Literature Festival in October 2018 at a special prize giving ceremony.

Sacha, from Whickham, who came to the University through Clearing and graduated this month with First Class honours, said: “There is so much effort going into the transformation of this castle and I’m so proud to be playing a part.

I’m also honoured to be leading the short story competition, it’s such great experience for my CV, as I planning to become a secondary school teacher in the future.”

She added: “The volunteering opportunity with Hylton Castle came about through the University, and after chatting to Pearl Saddington, the Learning Officer, we came up with the idea to host experience days for school children.

I’ve done everything from creating post cards from First World War soldiers, to medieval days making shields and dressing up as knights. It’s been amazing working with Pearl, she’s had so much confidence in me.”

She added: “The success of those school workshops has led to more responsibility and work on the project, including the short story competition.”

Built around 600 years ago, Hylton Castle stands as a magnificent reminder of the past right in the heart of the community. Much loved by local people but now standing empty, it has provided a home for barons and school boys, a stronghold for knights and a headquarters for soldiers, and tells us much about how people have lived in Sunderland for hundreds of years.

Pearl Saddington said: “It’s been wonderful to partner with the University of Sunderland for the Hylton Castle Stories children’s writing competition, and what could be better than having a local young person leading the competition workshops, inspiring children from across Sunderland with both stories of the castle and dene and with her own learning journey and love of literature.

“The Hylton Castle Project will only succeed with the support and skills of volunteers like Sacha, and her enthusiasm and dedication is wonderful. We’d love to hear from other students and graduates who would like to volunteer.”

Children are invited to submit their own original stories in to one of the
three age categories:

4 – 7 years-old
8 – 11 years-old
12 – 14 years-old

The closing date for receipt of all entries is 24 August 2018.

All entries will be read by an expert panel, with author Laura Stevens judging the final shortlisted stories, which will be published in a book. Winners and runners up will each receive Waterstones’ Book Vouchers of £30, £20, £10 respectively.

Finalists from all categories will be invited to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens during the Sunderland Literature Festival in October 2018 for a special prize giving ceremony where the winners will be announced.

If you would like a bit of help to fire up your creativity, come along to a Story Telling, Story Making session, running during the summer holidays on 31 July and 14 August, to listen to tall tales, try on the magic story hats, and get started on your own story – click here for more information.

GRADUATE Profile: Sacha Pattison

A love of literature and supporting her four younger siblings with their weekly homework led to Sacha Pattison deciding on a career as an English teacher.

This was despite her “uninspired” brush with books at school when she felt the English curriculum too restrained and restrictive and admits she struggled with the work.

Following her A-Level results, she waited until Clearing before deciding on which university would suit her ambitions best, boost her knowledge, and nurture her passion for learning.

She explained: “I knew straight away that Sunderland was the right choice for me, the staff were fantastic on the phone and so positive, compared to other calls I had. I wanted to take an English degree that would open the doors to a lot of routes, and Sunderland has been perfect.

“It’s just been a fun, enjoyable environment to study in, you get to experiment with what you’re learning. The tutors are so supportive and have been inspiring. They have such a wealth of knowledge and you can pick their brains about so many areas of the subject. They have also helped me to improve my technique in developing arguments around the texts, something I will take with me when I start teaching in secondary schools. I want school pupils to formulate their own arguments and to inspire them.”

Now she has graduated, Sacha plans to study a Master’s degree in English, before returning to Sunderland to take a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate of Education), which will provide her with the qualifications she needs to apply for teaching jobs.

And to ensure she has a wealth of experience working with youngsters, she has seized on the numerous volunteering opportunities on offer at Sunderland, including getting involved in the Hylton Castle Project.

“I was really thrown in at the deep end, going into local primary schools to inspire youngsters about the castle using all sorts of props. It was great to get really creative with the kids – you have to be visual otherwise they don’t respond, and it just becomes an unhappy task for them. Once you establish that bond with youngsters it’s easy to get them thinking and have fun with the subject they’re learning.”

Sacha has also spent time on work placement at Heworth Grange Comprehensive School in Gateshead working with the school’s Head of English.

In addition the 21-year-old, from Whickham, has worked with The Foundation of Light, the registered charity of Sunderland AFC, and even found time to work in an Oxfam shop, to carry on her charity work.

Sacha says: “I think it’s important to get as much experience of working in the area you’re passionate about to ensure when it comes to applying for jobs, you really are ready for the world of work.

“I guess I’d like to make an impact on the world through teaching and I’m very excited about the future.”

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