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Not my usual blog haunt, but I felt this was the appropriate place

Jazifer's picture
on October 8, 2008 - 2:34pm

I spend way too much time blogging elsewhere and my instinct is to retreat to my usual haunt, but something is making my want to write this over here. I've watched the posting about the SCS develop since the news about the event broke and for maybe the first time I feel compelled to discuss one of the events Josh has taken part in on a specific blog post as opposed to just a comment on a thread. I made a brief - well, brief for me - comment there, but wanted to share a little more of my thoughts here.

I have already spoken about this with a friend who was lucky enough to be at the SCS event, thanking her for sharing the clips and pictures that she did. Were it not for her, I wouldn't have got to hear Josh's words, and I'd have been poorer for it. This is the place that I'm coming from on this; I come from a crappy immigrant neighbourhood in South London. At least one FoJG member can talk about what it was like to teach in at the time I grew up there. Brixton was in flames during the riots, certain areas were no-go, kids were turning to crime, and illegal squats were the norm in the neighbourhood. My parents had settled there because they wanted me, as the kid of parents who had moved to the UK from abroad, to fit in. Plus it was handy for dad's job. He used to work six days a week, often getting the night bus home at 3am before going back on shift again at 11am. Mum gave up work to virtually raise me on her own. Why? So they could pay for my education. I was an angry kid, and I could so easily have got mixed up with the wrong crowd. Many of the guys I went to school with did and some, sadly, ended up doing time for it. It's not unusual where I came from and I could so easily have become a statistic. At best, I'd have been doing well to scrape through high school and get a badly paying job. Because that's what was expected of me. But like I said, dad and mum decided that they were going to try everything they could to prevent that from happening. They paid for me to get out - to go to a private school.

That was the start of my having access to education, through school, then college, then university, and it would change my life and give me opportunities that nobody I started school with received. I never understood as an angry teenager why dad wasn't at any sports events or at any music recitals; but now I've come to realise that the only reason I could do these was because of the sacrifices he and my mother made. They gave up a lot for me, and for that I will be forever grateful. They gave me the best start imaginable, and when I went to university, again they saved every penny they could to help me financially. I worked crappy jobs to pay my way, as well as interning to gain experience in the professional field I wanted to move into, but they were always there helping me out both financially and with moral support. From what I understand, many of the kids that have received help through SCS weren't lucky enough to have that support around them and are only now receiving what will be an invaluable rock to lean on through their college years. They'll want to give something back for sure when they graduate, and the difference that they will be able to make, the impact they will have, on others' lives will be tangible. They will be able to talk about real experiences from a place that kids in the future will get and will relate to. It won't feel alien; some old, white, male college professor who never had to struggle. I do not mean to be disparaging, but many just do not get it; they've been ensconced in their Ivory Tower long before university and even with their best intentions, there is some advice that they won't be able to give with any great empathy. That is where mentors and role models through something such as SCS become invaluable.

As I said, I got no financial help to go to college apart from a few hundred pounds from my local authority every term - and that didn't even cover my rent. My parents gave me every penny they could and all the moral support in the world as I made my choices - and they *still* do so now on an emotional level now that I've decided to take a career break to go back and complete my PhD. I've been a Welfare Officer for the National Union of Students on my campuses and I've seen the problems students deal with now. Plus I also tutor them these days so hear about the stresses they are under. It breaks my heart and I try and tell them I really do get it and the three jobs they are struggling with to pay their way through college and all those loans they are taking out are totally worth it. Sometimes it's tough to look someone in the eye when you're telling them that, yes, it will get worse before it gets better but that education opens so many doors and nobody can take any of it away from you ever. I'm 33 next birthday and can't even begin to think of what it's taken to get to the point I have professionally. I won't talk about what I do for a living specifically, suffice to say that I'm a political consultant who works closely with aerospace industry and leave the boring explanations for another day. I honestly don't know if I'd set out on the same path were I to know back then what I know now. I'd like to think so because I love what I do, love the life I have, and the experiences - even the tough stuff - that I've had along the way. However, I do know one thing for sure; nobody in my neighbourhood would have expected me, or anyone else in my class back in 1980, to have even considered a career such as this. It just wasn't something you did.

To see the GFC become involved with a project such as SCS gives me a real feeling of, well, I suppose pride. I'm not sure why, but there it is - I guess I'm thankful as well. I would have loved to have had someone to talk to, to share my frustrations with, and to ask advice of when I didn't know how to handle various things back then. The idea that these kids will have someone makes me pretty happy. As I said at the beginning of this post, I'd never felt motivated to write here, but for some reason I did today about this - perhaps because I've met so many fantastic educators through this very community and I want them to know how much I value them being in my life as well. I'm proud that Josh and Alice have been honoured for their work, I'm grateful to those who went and who shared their stories of the evening, and I'm really looking forward to hearing more about the students involved in the programme. Also a little curious as to whether some of the I.R. ones will ever give me a run for my money at conferences in the future!

My Alma Mater have been bugging me for quite some time to mentor students for them. Again, it's an inner city environment, a university in Manchester. To be honest, the only reason why I haven't become involved was because I'm rarely in the area any more and I've always been focused on the kids at the establishments that I'm currently working with. But reading about this event has made me change my mind and I've already sent them an email this morning signing up. The experiences I had at college are ones I will cherish, and I hope as many people as possible - young and older now through Access courses - get the opportunity to gain some of their own.

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