30 Under 30: Rohanna IrvineWritten by The Young Women's Movement
Growing up, 24 year-old Rohanna Irvine used to think of Glasgow as the big city, somewhere she might never go. Coming from the small village of Tighnabruaich, with a population of about 600, it seemed a whole world away. The village was isolated enough that Rohanna lived away during the week to attend school.
When, at 17, she was getting ready to move to Glasgow for college, she was more than a bit nervous. There was a lot of pressure: she hadn’t gotten into university, so studying sport was following through on the backup plan. To top it off, she didn’t really have any friends in the city.
Now? Rohanna can’t really imagine living somewhere else. Working with Active East, a programme that works to create a legacy from the 2014 Commonwealth Games, she spends her time working with young people in Glasgow’s East End, building skills, confidence, and aspirations through physical activity, sport and volunteering.
School was never Rohanna’s focus when she was young. ‘I was never the biggest learner,’ she laughs; ‘for me, sport was the biggest thing.’ When she moved to Glasgow, she started volunteering as well, working with children with disabilities and becoming involved with Education through CashBack.
That was where I decided what I wanted to do with my life. The kids were wild but I absolutely loved it – I loved that they were coming into a safe space.
With this new goal, Rohanna went to Uni to study Sports Coaching. When she heard of a job going as Youth Development Officer for Active East, it sounded perfect: ‘I walked in [to the interview] and I thought “I’m not leaving until I get this job.”’
Spoiler alert: she got the job. Also, she rocks it – this year she was nominated for a YouthLink Scotland Youth Worker of the year award.
‘I get to work with kids every day, getting to be the person to guide and mentor them – I get so much out of that. A lot of these kids don’t have people that they can sit down at a table with and talk about the future with. It’s a total privilege to be able to ask them “what are your plans for the future? How can we help?”‘
For someone who, as a teenager, never thought much beyond college, Rohanna considers herself lucky to be where she is now.
I get texts from friends that are like, ‘I hate my job, what am I doing with my life? And I just feel so lucky that I’ve got a job at my age that I love. As long as I’m still doing this for the next 5 years I’ll be happy, I’ll love my life
As somebody who didn’t start off with a load of qualifications, Rohanna has some important advice for young women who are stressed about the next step: ‘qualifications are important, but you can get where you want to without them. A qualification doesn’t determine your worth.’