October 2020

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Photograph credit: Laurie Lewis

Barrister Alexandra Wilson has thrown her support behind Future First’s mission to build alumni networks in state schools across the country.

The black female lawyer hit the news headlines last month when she revealed that she had been mistaken for the defendant three times in one day.

Yet her determination to succeed and overcome prejudice is summed up in her defiant message: “I’m 24. I’m mixed-race. I’m from Essex. I’m not posh. I worked hard and NEVER listened when people said the Bar wasn’t for people like me. THIS is what a barrister looks like.”

Announcing her support for Future First, Alexandra said: “Providing relatable role models for all students is so important. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see. I’m pleased to support Future First’s mission to build alumni networks in state schools, and hope my story inspires young people to aim high.”

As well as being a barrister, Alexandra is also a published author and the founder of Black Women in Law.

Responding to Alexandra’s support, Future First’s Chief Executive, Lorraine Langham, said: “We are so delighted that Alexandra is supporting our effort to ensure that no young person’s start in life determines their future.

“Her story should be an inspiration for every young person, especially those who feel barriers block the way of them pursuing the career of their dreams.

“Role models are vital for young people to show them a future that can be theirs.”

One of Future First’s longstanding partners, law firm Taylor Wessing, has produced a video by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) employees, offering advice to young people on how to pursue a legal career.

Lorraine Langham, Chief Executive Officer at Future First, said: “This video provides fantastic advice and guidance to any young person interested in pursuing a legal career, but especially those from BAME communities.

“By using their staff as relatable role models, Taylor Wessing is showing that a good legal career is very much open to everyone with the right aptitude who is prepared to work hard.”

Future First works with a diverse range of employers to help thousands of students to experience life in the workplace. Taylor Wessing has worked with the charity for several years to offer insight days and mentoring programmes to students from all walks of life so the option of a career in law is opened up to them.

After making it past the original goal of £10,000 for its crowdfunding initiative, Future First has now smashed through its stretch target of £18,000 – with a few days still left on the campaign.

The new milestone was reached thanks to a generous £1,495 donation from Future First volunteer Rahul Moodgal ahead of the fundraising push coming to an end on Monday (12 October).

The success of the crowdfunding campaign, the first to ever be attempted by the charity, means thousands more pupils in state schools will benefit from Future First’s work to develop thriving alumni networks.

Among those to benefit will be students at four schools in Lincolnshire, thanks to South Holland District Council’s decision to support the initiative.

Future First Chief Executive, Lorraine Langham, said: “I am so grateful to Rahul for his generous donation and to everyone else who has supported this campaign. We will make sure that every pound makes a difference to state school pupils.

“Of course, there are still a few days to go, so there’s still time to donate and help us extend our reach and impact to more students in more schools.

“Our work is more important than ever right now, given the anxiety many young people will be feeling due to the pandemic. Unless we take action, the gap between young people from privileged backgrounds and those whose start in life has been more challenging will continue to get wider.

“Alumni networks can play a vital role in the education ecosystem, giving young people in state schools extra support and encouragement. They offer pupils an insight into a future that could be theirs, providing them with confidence, motivation and inspiration to push on and succeed.”

You can donate here until 12 October, 1.30pm.

Two medical students have returned to their West London state school to celebrate its win in a national award sponsored by alumni charity, Future First.

Villiers High School has just won a silver award in the ‘Making a Difference’ category of the National Teaching Awards, which Future First has proudly sponsored for a number of years.

A former head boy, Danyal Aftab, and former head girl, Svenja D’Costa, both returned to celebrate the win.

Danyal, who is now studying BioMedicine, told local media: “I’m so proud that I went to Villiers. I know that hasn’t always been the case for pupils but in the last few years the school has really changed its reputation and become a school you can say you are proud to attend.”

Svenja, who is studying medicine, added: “Our teachers always want to know how we are doing and what we are up to. It’s a brilliant school and I love coming back.”

Future First’s Chief Executive, Lorraine Langham, said: “As a charity committed to seeing strong alumni networks working across every school in the country I’m so delighted to hear that Danyal and Svenja returned to celebrate this fantastic award with their old school.

“We know that meeting past students can make a significant difference to pupils.

“Alumni show them a world of opportunity and a future that could be theirs. They inspire pupils with their stories and give them the confidence and motivation needed to succeed.”

Future First already works with hundreds of state schools to link young people with alumni and employers, but there are many more schools that do not benefit from the opportunity.

The charity is currently crowdfunding to raise money to set up even more alumni programmes in schools. There’s still time to support the effort so we can ensure no young person’s start in life determines their future.

Education charity’s Chair signs commitment to promote good mental health in the workplace and break down mental health stigma.

Future First has today signed the national Time to Change pledge and thrown its support behind the fight to break down the barriers around mental health in the workplace and increase awareness about the issue.

Signing the commitment to embed the pledge into the charity’s organisational culture, Future First’s Chair, Christine Gilbert, said: “I’m delighted to sign the Time to Change pledge as a public declaration of how Future First wants to step up to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination.  We are deeply committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our staff and the wider community with which we work.”

Lorraine, Future First’s Chief Executive, added: “Many people suffer from mental health problems at some time in their life. It’s time we talked more openly about it.

“Future First is proud to take the Time to Change pledge as we want to be an employer that models good practice and creates a supportive environment in which our staff can succeed and thrive.”

Time to Change is a campaign run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. It aims to improve public attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems and reduce the amount of discrimination they suffer in their personal relationships, social lives and at work.

Future First works with hundreds of state schools and colleges across the country to link young people with alumni and employers. The charity’s vision is for a world where a young person’s start in life does not limit their future. The importance of good mental health is central to this work, with the programmes the charity runs in schools focused on building confidence, motivation and inspiration among students.

Lord Gary Porter, Leader of South Holland District Council in Lincolnshire, has voiced his support of Future First’s crowdfunder through an article in Local Government First magazine.

Lord Porter, who began his career as a builder, speaks of the importance of providing young people with a network of former student role models, providing a diversity of opportunity to aspire to.

Future First’s crowdfunder is gathering pace as it enters its final week, and has already exceeded its original £10,000 target. The funds will be used to build and activate former student communities in even more state schools in the UK.

Gold Medalist and climate activist Etienne Stott has backed Future First’s crowdfunding campaign to set up an alumni programme in every state school and college in the country.

The campaign is all about getting relatable role models to inspire state school pupils and show them a world of opportunities.

The Olympic champion won gold at the London 2012 Olympics in the men’s canoe slalom. He has been campaigning for the protection of the planet ever since his retirement from professional sports in 2016.

The backing from Etienne Stott is fantastic news for Future First’s crowdfunding campaign as it enters its final week. The crowdfunder is aiming to support more state schools to establish alumni programmes, so today’s pupils can be motivated and inspired to go on and succeed.