Summer has been a busy period for the Sutton Trust’s alumni community and the first week of September capped off the season with two highly successful online events. Alum Olivia Heeley takes us through them.

From impromptu serenades to inspirational stories, announcing the new Alumni Leadership Board and award winners, to dancing to DJ Kate’s sweet jams, the week was full of surprises.

Preparing for University

Kicking the week off was an informative session for the alums starting their first year at university, hosted by the Sutton Trust and featuring various guest speakers.

We were given a run down on what we can expect from beginning degrees largely from our laptops, and how to maximise our experiences – both academically and socially. Talking to other alums, the general consensus was that going from gap years and considerably longer summers to the intense academic rigour of our courses would be a struggle, but we felt that the advice we received really helped us to change our outlooks and anticipate the new term with positivity.

The first speaker was Laura Houston from the University of St. Andrew’s, who outlined what we could expect from studying in a Covid-19 affected environment and reiterated the importance of hitting the ground running (amongst other useful tips!). Her advice on using virtual events to meet new people and having the right mindset to achieve was really useful.

We then heard insider tips from John Dixon, Natwest’s Co-Head of Corporate Banking London. He helped to establish what employers really prioritise when hiring, and how important it is to demonstrate interest through conducting thorough research and working part time or volunteering.

Alum Michelle Sebele spoke to us about the importance of staying true to our identity and embracing differences. I was interested to hear about her university experience as a Sutton Trust alum, and how it compared to that of her peers. The topic is not something widely spoken about, so Michelle’s perspective allowed us to consider the challenges we may face in a different light.

All in all, I felt that the critical knowledge imparted to us by these fantastic guest speakers, combined with a presentation from young people’s charity ‘The Mix’, will stand all of us in good stead for the year ahead.

Moving from education to celebration, the theme of the next Zoom meeting was one for all alumni regardless of point in career.

Alumni Celebration

The alumni celebration was amazing in that nobody knew what to expect. My curiosity was piqued about a week before the event even began when a party bag came through my door, telling me not to open it until the night of the event. There was a real sense of anticipation. Friday could not come soon enough…

Over the course of the evening, we were privileged to hear Sutton Trust alum and BBC journalist Ashley John-Baptiste’s story and how his experience at a UK Summer School programme changed his perspective on education, ultimately leading to him applying to Cambridge University.

I could see that Ashley’s story touched many of us. Whilst he had to overcome many adversities, he demonstrates that background does not have to restrict success and accomplishment, and often it can be the challenges that you learn from that give you an alternative perspective to your peers.

I believe Ashley’s talk demonstrated that there is no limit as to what Sutton Trust alumni can achieve, and see him as a real inspiration to alumni present and future.

The night ended with a quiz which soon turned into a debate after a Magnum was described as an ice lolly rather than an ice cream… but before that we were treated to the announcements that everyone had been waiting for: the new Alumni Leadership Board members and Sutton Trust Award winners.

The new board members are:

Yasmin Baker

Roger Clarke

Rory Daniels

Lucy Davies-Kumadiro

Daniel Henderson

Zoe Jervier

Daniel Malikzade-Afshar

Thomas Seddon

Elle Winfield

Dani Yates

The first ever alumni award winners are:

For Outstanding Achievement

Kike Oniwinde – winner

Temi Mwale – runner up

For Covid-19 response

Liam Whitton – winner

Maurice Yap – runner up

For Social Mobility

Anna-Louise Thomond – winner

Daniel Dipper – runner up

I found that the celebration was the ultimate combination of information and celebration – looking to the future with the announcement of the new Alumni Leadership Board members, whilst also celebrating what the organisation and alumni had already achieved.

Once again, the amazing achievements of Sutton Trust staff and alumni show that the sky’s the limit. I look forward to seeing what the rest of this topsy turvy year brings, and congratulate the absolutely incredible members of the Alumni Leadership Board and award winners.

Olivia Heeley is an alum of the US Programme and is now studying Politics and International Relations with Economics at New College of the Humanities.

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