Six inspirational black leaders shared their advice and experience with students when they joined a discussion panel at Westminster Kingsway College (@Westking).
Around 50 students attended the debate that took place at the college’s King’s Cross Centre to mark Black History Month, which runs throughout October.
The panel of speakers comprised:
- Frankie Davies – Careers and Employability Advisor and owner of online retail business PixieDivine
- Naz Deen - Head of Youth and Sport at children’s charity Coram’s Fields
- Vanessa Holondo - Policy Advisor at the Home Office
- Kehinde Ndede - Lead Business Analyst at the Home Office
- Michelle Green, Self-employed motivational coach for young people
- George Osei-Oppong – IT Engineer and CEO of tech firm HostHelp
During the debate, the panel were asked questions about the challenges they have faced, their role models and inspirations and biggest achievements, as well as offering students their top tips for success.
Kehinde, who has worked at the Home Office for three years, revealed how the issue of her race and gender was still prevalent in her career and how she had overcome challenges in the workplace.
“I’m a senior manager in a male-dominated environment and a young, black woman. I find that challenging as I’m constantly having to prove myself. I’ve had to be quite assertive and say this is my point or perspective and this is why.”
Offering her advice to students, she added: “For me, it was about being able to do my job well and having belief in myself and that I am able to deliver, knowing I have the skills and capabilities to do this job and that’s why I’m here.”
“Have the confidence to speak out and voice your concern in a professional way. It’s the way you approach situations and circumstances that will determine how people react. It’s about being able to express yourself in a clear way that people understand and the reason behind it, and also going for whatever opportunities come your way irrespective of what anyone thinks.”
Michelle, who has 15 years’ experience working with young people in education, mentoring, youth offending, online protection sand safeguarding, encouraged students to believe in themselves and what they can achieve.
She said: “One of the biggest challenges along the way is doubting yourself. Be clear about what you want. When you ask yourself that question it can be difficult to define and get that answer. I really looked at that, focused on it and wrote it down, and then said right this is what I’m going to go for.”
On the importance of good role models, she added:
“They’re important because they mould your character and who you want to be. Find people who motivate and encourage you on your journey, and who you can look up to and imitate. Find someone you can aspire to, whether it’s a black person or not, and take what is good from them, and anything else leave aside.”
The panel also encouraged students to network and build experience through volunteering, try things out of their comfort zone, learn from other people’s experiences, take the positives from every challenge and be bold, authentic and themselves.
The discussion panel was one of many Black History Month events being hosted at WestKing, which also included:
- Film screenings of Becoming, a documentary about Michelle Obama, and Rocks, a film about a black British teenage girl and her younger brother abandoned by their mother and facing being taken into care.
- A book club focusing on Marlorie Blackman’s acclaimed novel Noughts & Crosses, which was recently turned into a BBC TV drama.
- Themed debates including one entitled BAME Is Not My Name, which explored whether the term BAME should be ditched.
- A poetry society celebrating black feminism where students were asked to share a verse and their thoughts and experiences.
The events were organised by the Student Services team, which runs a wide range of enrichment activities for learners throughout the year including employability workshops, curriculum events and national competitions.