Tolu is in her final year studying Political Economy at King’s College London as a Desmond Tutu Scholar. Realising that she was often the only woman of colour in the room during her 5 corporate insight weeks, she created the BAME in the City society to support BAME students to obtain internships and access careers. In her spare time, Tolu is a Youth Leader and Coordinator at the Victory Youth Group in Hackney, mentoring young people aged 14-25, public speaking, and fundraising during Easter and Christmas. Tolu won the upReach Ten Award at the Student Social Mobility Awards 2018.
Tell us a bit about your journey to winning an award at the Student Social Mobility Awards.
Prior to starting university, I decided that I really wanted to make a difference and make the most out of my university experience. As someone from a low-income background who went to school in one of the most deprived boroughs in London, I wanted to show others from my background that it was possible. So, I sought work experience and leadership opportunities whilst at university and was pleasantly surprised when my upReach Programme Coordinator nominated me for an award. I didn’t expect to win but was glad about the recognition.
How does it feel to be recognised, and what was the ceremony like?
To be recognised with an upReach Ten Award was a privilege particularly because of the calibre of upReach students. To be chosen was a great honour! The ceremony itself was great because we were addressed by notable individuals and had the opportunity to meet and network with a range of key people at different firms. I’d never experienced anything like this before so it was surreal.
How has winning an award affected you?
It was incredible to know that people saw my potential and believed in me enough to give me the award. It has made me more confident in my abilities and it was nice to be recognised for working hard throughout my time at university. It has also impressed prospective employers and students are interested in my journey.
What does social mobility mean to you?
To me, social mobility is about granting opportunity and access to everyone irrespective of their class, income or family background. I support social mobility by taking part in mentoring programmes which allow me to speak to young people and give advice to students from low-income backgrounds, giving them the information that they often miss out on. I have only mentored in schools considered the most deprived as I believe that they need it the most.
What advice would you give to students just starting out at university?
My greatest piece of advice would be to be resilient. If you’re from a low socioeconomic background, you are probably used to receiving rejections. But it’s important to be resilient, because when you are applying for internships, programmes and spring weeks you may get rejected. You might even see your friends doing incredible things whilst you aren’t being accepted onto anything, but you need to know how to easily bounce back from that and keep persevering. Eventually, if you do not give up, you will get an opportunity, internship or graduate role and you’ll look back at your journey and see how much you have grown because of the ‘nos’ you received.
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” – Confucius.