Anja's story

Finding your path after your exam results is different for everyone. Our Youth Involvement Commissioner, Anja Johnston, has shared her story and how important Scouts has been in her journey.

Even from a young age I always remember in school that the focus was on making sure that you were aiming for the highest marks in your tests and that followed through to exams. Getting high grades in your exams meant that you were setting yourself up for a life of success, you would go to university, get a degree and then find the perfect job. I was completely unaware that other paths were also an option.

I breezed through my 4th year exams, receiving top grades in all 8 of my subjects. In 5th year that all changed. I understood the course work and I passed all my end of unit assessments but when it came to my exams, the pressure was way too much. The enormous pressure that is placed on young people, when we’re told that these grades will dictate the rest of your life. I failed half of my 5th year exams.

There was one positive for me that year, mid-way through my 5th year I decided to join my local Explorer Scout Unit, a decision I have never looked back on.

In 6th year, every week, from roughly September/October through to January one of our study periods was dedicated to filling out our UCAS forms. The career path I was planning to take meant that I did not have to attend university but I was still made to complete my UCAS. I applied to a number of universities to study nursing and was offered interviews but suddenly decided to pull my application. I can remember feeling lost, not sure what to do as the focus from school had been on going to university. Exam time came around again and this time I really caved.

I failed all of my 6th year exams.

Joining Scouts

Outside of school I took on a volunteer role with my Scout group and while I was really struggling having failed my exams. I knew that at least once a week I would turn up at the Scout hall, hear about the week that the Scouts had had, catch up with the other volunteers, teach and learn new skills. Scouts was good for me; it gave me somewhere to thrive.

At Scouts there was a group of amazing volunteers around me that took me under their wing and supported me every step of the way. What I had anticipated being a gap year ended up as a gap 2 years.

In that time I gave my absolute all to volunteering with Scouts. I was part of a team that would organise camps, developing skills in communication, problem solving, budgeting, planning. I stepped out of my comfort zone and applied for the 15th World Scout Moot in Iceland, was asked to join the National Youth Advisory Group, eventually then asked if I would like to take on the role of Scottish Commissioner for Youth Involvement

During all of this I was just having the time of my life but little did I know that I was constantly learning new things.

Finding my career

In 2018, I attended an event outwith Scouts. On the journey to the event, I had the chance to chat with a youth worker. I told her about everything that I had been lucky enough to do with the Scouts. I was offered a Youth Work job on the spot. I had never anticipated ever getting involved with youth work but how could I turn this down?

My youth work journey has been incredible. A project that I have been involved in was picked up internationally and used as an example of good digital practice. We wrote a chapter for a book on the power of digital youth work within rural and socially isolated communities which lead on to a podcast. I have recently taken up post as the Highland Youth Convener.

All of this would not have been possible without Scouts.

My path to become a youth worker wasn’t straight forward. Thinking back to those days in school, completing that UCAS form and applying to university I would never have imagined the journey before me. You are more than just the results that you get through the post (or in a text message). From reluctantly attending my first ever night at Scouts to now being a voice for young people within the Highlands, I am so grateful for the journey that I have had through Scouts.

Have a look at Scouts and employability | Scouts and find out more about how to tell others about the skills you’ve learnt through Scouts.