Throughout my university career at King’s College London, I was incredibly fortunate to work as a student ambassador for the Widening Participation Department and as my undergraduate experience finally draws to a close, I can say, without any form of hesitation, that it has been one of the most valuable, rewarding, enjoyable and heartening experiences of my life.
I have always cared about education, people and politics. I was heart sore when tuition fees were raised to £9,000 per year, when maintenance grants were changed to loans; not because that system made life harder for me(although of course it did), not because I would have to think twice about applying to university but for the people who might see those barriers and give up. The people for whom a maintenance grant might be the difference between thinking of applying to university and not, to pursuing their ambitions and dreams or not. However, working with KCL WP allowed me not just to feel impotently heart sore at the decisions made in the corridors of power (those decisions that impact the disenfranchised and most in need in our society most powerfully) but to be part of the solution, to encourage aspiration, to offer opportunity and to allow people to thrive and strive to achieve the things they are capable of.
Being a student ambassador has taught me so much about the young people of today. It has taught me how determined and talented they are, how kind they are, how vital, invigorating, inspiring, special, respectful, resourceful, thoughtful, right, righteous, defiant and vibrant they are. If a member of the cabinet could only spend a day at a K+ or Sutton Trust Summer School I think they’d struggle not to agree that all young people deserve to be given equal opportunities and access to education, or that by making education a matter of economics we are potentially depriving ourselves of some of brightest and brilliant young minds, or that studying Arts and Humanities subjects creates students who are as well-rounded and remarkable as those who study STEM subjects.
Look no further than this bunch of fab, fierce feminists studying languages below if you still need proof of that Nicky Morgan:
As well as teaching me a lot about the infinite capabilities of the students I have been lucky enough to work with, KCL WP has also taught me a lot about myself. When I joined to become an ambassador, I was shy, introverted and depressed. I found talking one on one very daunting, giving campus tours anxiety inducing and many elements of the job quite scary. But the reason I signed up to become an ambassador was because I wanted to make a difference, and after two years of working, much recovery, confidence-building and lots of effort, I hope that,in some small way, I have. Whilst studying at King’s, as a performance poet I have had a book published, made a film with BBC iPlayer, performed at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall but the thing I am most proud of BY FAR during my undergraduate degree has been the work I have done with the KCL WP team, the personal demons I have been able to tackle to do so and the infinite rewards that it has offered me.
As a WP ambassador I have worked 4 Summer Schools, sat in finance talks, lectures, language seminars, been on a treasure hunt where the clues are written in German, cruised the Thames on a boat twice, visited the Guardian, the Courtauld and Pizza Express(a lot!), been on the London Eye an unfathomable amount of times, worn many a blue tshirt, worked with hundreds of erudite, insightful, feminist and fun students and had many a life changing experience.
However, the true privilege of my job has been working with the KCL WP team and my fellow ambassadors. So here’s the cheesy thank you segment of this blog!
My blue t-shirt brethren have been the definition of #squadgoals, fostering a real sense of community through a united purpose to ensure students coming in to King’s have the best possible experience.
And this united front, this shared cause and ethos filters down from the very top, the KCL WP team itself.
AMC- Anne-Marie Canning, Head of Widening Participation is a bit of a legend, a force of nature, who throws herself hell-for-leather into everything she does with an infectious energy- from politics to participation she really is a force to be reckoned with, one of my feminist heroes and she has most definitely definitively proven she can give a Killer Presentation.
Francesca Slattery- K+ Officer- I have seen few people ever, in all my life, more thoroughly immersed and impassioned by the work that they do. KCL WP’s flagship program, K+, is a tight operation, overseen by Francesca it runs like a well-oiled slick machine, but one full of warmth and fun and knowledge and life-altering opportunities for young people. I have learnt an awful lot about leadership and sheer enthusiasm from working alongside her.
Billy Reed- he does look a bit like Matt Cardle, but he’s full of enthusiasm and commitment to his job that makes the Sutton Trust such a vibrant and fulfilling Summer School to be part of.
Patrice Buddington & Effy Alexandrou hold a special place in my KCL WP memories for offering me the opportunity to perform poems during their year 6 secondary school transition days- or as I have dubbed it my South London Schools Tour. When you are surrounded by incredible and enthusiastic people and an 11 year old boy in a Brixton school asks you for your autograph, you know you are very lucky to be doing the job you are doing.
Thanks to the rest of the team who have also made my KCL WP experience so memorable: Naomi- Electric Slide Queen, Syreeta, Ruth, Anne-Marie,Catherine, Jack, Beth in the SU and the brilliant Sophie(gone but not forgotten) for making my experience as an ambassador not only an opportunity to aid and change others lives, but also my own.
Find out more about KCL WP here(and if you can get involved, you won’t regret it):
There isn’t a much better way to end this blog post than with the poem I was asked to write for the launch of the KCL WP Yearbook Launch, it basically says all I’ve just said but it’s more succinct and it rhymes:
King’s + Us
King’s plus me, wasn’t always easy.
Didn’t seem to be the place for me.
Loved my degree, but didn’t talk to anyone else, felt empty.
Until eventually I decided I needed to strive, to try, not to sink but succeed.
So I applied to be an ambassador on a scheme, about widening dreams,
about expanding horizons ‘til we find them as high and as wide as Waterloo Imax screens.
A scheme about opportunity giving, offering high definition visions of future ambitions,
to kids who have been conditioned. Stuck in critical, cyclical systems that convince them that their futures are plans that won’t come to fruition.
But I have seen what happens when you listen, when you give them opportunities.
I have seen the introverts, the extroverts, the exceptionally nervous, the furtively fearful, the extremely hardworking, the ones who feel worthless transform into public speakers in the space of a week, find academic pursuits that ignite their minds and set them free.
I have seen confidence blossom from the seeds of self-doubt,
I have found out that the wider we strive the louder we shout.
I have discovered that this is what university should be about.
And I am proud to go to one that sings for the unsung,
One that allows all potential to blaze like young summer suns,
one that has begun to let all futures unfurl into promise
and that knowledge revived me from the sickness of solace.
I honestly love this place in King’s I trust, because King’s plus us equals K+.