Using my voice

Aniqah's portrait
18th November 2022

By Aniqah Buckingham, Mayor’s Fund for London Youth Board member

My name is Aniqah Buckingham. I am a year 13 student studying for my A-levels. I am also a Student Ambassador for the Mayor’s Fund for London (MFL) and a newly-selected member of their Youth Board.

Employers are looking for young people to train and inspire. These young people are usually from private schools or have a long lineage of professionals in their families. They’ve had opportunities thrown their way and by the time they leave university, they already have enough experience to propel them to the top.

Opportunities that so many young people just do not have.

I have been attending a state school for nearly seven years. The percentage of pupil premium is over 35% higher than the national average. I know of students who have to skip meals due to financial difficulty. This is no doubt linked to the behaviour issues of many students in my school. I have even witnessed a school stabbing not even two minutes from the front gate.

Which employers want to work with a school like this?

Thankfully, Access Aspiration did. And the work they are doing is truly changing lives, giving us opportunities we’ve never had before.

Access Aspiration works with over 100 companies to provide work experience to students who come from disadvantaged schools. I’ve seen loads of my friends benefit from these programmes, delivered straight to our inboxes, helping them develop skills and access opportunities we would have never been offered otherwise.

I was amazed and grateful for the work Access Aspiration was doing, so I decided to join as a student ambassador. This has been an incredible step for me in terms of personal and professional development. Being able to work as part of a team to promote work experience to others has taught me invaluable communication and collaboration skills, essential to any job. I was able to give a short talk to employers at Harper Collins Publishing firm about the importance of working with young people and giving them opportunities.

Through being a Student Ambassador, I learnt about the Mayor’s Fund for London Youth Board: a group of 15 young people from across London who lead the charity and make decisions. The impact they had on the four main areas of the charity and the work that they do – putting their time and effort into transforming our city – was beyond inspiring. I already looked up to these people (though I didn’t yet know them!) and was eager to be part of the incredible work they do.

I was unsure if I would make it through the rigorous application and interview process to become one of the new members. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear I had been selected this September! I feel very blessed and grateful to be part of such a meaningful cause, and hope I can do my position justice.

Last month, I had a fantastic opportunity to use my voice to promote change. Access Aspiration celebrated its 10th year anniversary alongside the first anniversary of the Diversity Pledge initiative. The event, located at the grand City Hall, was attended by many employers and members of the charity, celebrating the outstanding achievements of Access Aspiration so far. I was honoured to be a part of a panel of inspirational women, speaking about diversity in the workforce and why reaching a wider range of students is critical for all companies. It was insightful and intriguing to learn from the experiences of those who spoke at the event.

Without MFL, I never would have been given these opportunities, and neither would my peers. State schools hold hidden gems within them, students who are capable and passionate, but just have no better options open to them. Employers are missing out by not nurturing these young people and helping them to grow. Access Aspiration needs more employers to work with so that students can have as much variety as possible.

We can’t help the situations we are in. Just because we weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths doesn’t mean we aren’t passionate, capable, eager employees. We have the potential to change the world, we just need the platform to do so.

I hope I see more science opportunities popping into my inbox soon. 😉