I am currently going into S5 at Lourdes Secondary School in Cardonald, Glasgow, where I will begin studying English, Biology, Geography, Modern Studies and Drama at SQA Higher level. Beforehand, in S4, I studied English, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Computing Science, Geography, Modern Studies and Drama at National 5 level. I volunteer as a: Communic18 education leader for the Year of Young People 2018, starting last April, working to give young people a stronger role in shaping their own learning and offering insight and practical guidance to national partner organisations in order to ensure broad representation and engagement, member of the Scottish National Party since last June, running street stalls, handing out leaflets and delivering speeches at branch meetings, Member of the Scottish Education Council ever since November last year, meeting with the Deputy First Minister, HM Chief Inspector of Education, the Scottish Government Director for Learning and other key decision makers to discuss my experiences at school and get an insight on education policy, Campaigns Officer for the Glasgow Pollok Youth Forum, starting February, regularly keeping in contact with members and holding meetings with voluntary youth organisations and partners to design innovative solutions to address local issues.
Which young Scot inspires you?
Mhairi Black. Every day, with brutal honesty and frankness (not hiding her accent!), she rises and fiercely stands up for Scotland at Westminster. She became a Member of Parliament at 20, quickly joining the frontbencher team of the SNP, broadcasting what young people are capable of. Moreover, she attended my school, Lourdes Secondary. To know Mhairi walked the corridors and had the teachers I do shows that background should not be and is not a barrier. I’ve heard she also wasn’t a big fan of mathematics, which is reassuring as I decided not to advance further with it!
What is the best thing about growing up in Scotland?
Being able to call myself Scottish. Nicola Sturgeon often declares that she wants Scotland to be the best place to grow up, but for me, it has been. Since I was very young, I’ve always had pride in living in Scotland and proud of Glasgow being my home. Everything, ranging from the people to the patter, to knowing that my ability to pay has no effect on my academic destinations or whether I can live or die, allow me to keep my head up when abroad with my accent. We’re respected across the globe and are seen as brave and as innovators. I also actually quite like the weather, believe it or not!
What would you most like people from older generations to know about young people?
That we aren’t all shoplifters! A supermarket in my local area makes young people queue for quite substantial lengths of time, squeezed together and squashed by baskets, all so that we can be surveilled in smaller batches. In some cases, some young people have even been disrespected. Please note: we only want to contribute to our country and in this case, business.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
Volunteering for the Year of Young People 2018. Speaking amongst friends and at school assemblies are one thing, but delivering addresses to hundreds of civil servants, senior NHS and education officials and representatives of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Austria is another. But the themed year has helped me to do that, to build up confidence and gain vital communication skills, ultimately leading to me being able to complete work experience with the former Transport Minister, campaign with a political party and sit on the Deputy First Minister’s education council and discuss my experiences at school and meet senior cabinet ministers such as Nicola Sturgeon and the Health Secretary. At school, I was awarded Young Volunteer of the Year in memory of Donald Macleod and I managed to attain all As in my National 5 preliminary examinations in English, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Computing Science, Geography, Modern Studies and Drama. I have never been the best at maths and in a class test last December I got around 45%, which I was able to double to 90% in the January exam and I achieved 95% in Modern Studies after about five hours a day in the library for a month!
What would you most like to achieve in the future?
I have always put my education above everything else because I know of its power and that with it I will be able to get a position where I have more influence and I am able to change lives, so I dream of attaining a degree in Politics and Geography at Glasgow University and teaching young people about the issues that affect them. From there, I would like to eventually have the high privilege and distinct honour of serving as Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills as I believe I would be capable of truly tackling issues and making Scotland’s education system the best in the world with the frontline experience of both studying and teaching. In addition, Geneva is a wonderful city that I connected with when I visited last year and I have left many good memories there, so I would very much like to stay there for a couple of years in the future.
What message would you like to give to other young people in Scotland?
At the beginning of 2017, I felt a sudden urge and was determined to get out and volunteer, make the voices of young heard and express my views on matters of concern, but I found that shear nervousness was a barrier. That was the case at first, but volunteering has been simply out of this world and I’ve developed many transferable skills and can now look back and say that I’m proud. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and ripe the brilliant benefits of volunteering! As President Obama once said: “It takes patience, it takes commitment and it comes with plenty of failure along the way.”
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