I WAS invited to a secondary school yesterday to speak to Year 11 business students about my journey so far as a small business owner. I love working with this particular age group (15-16 year olds) so I was very much looking forward to it.
Even after doing my research beforehand by checking out the school website, I had envisioned somewhat of a middle-class school because of its location in one of the more affluent boroughs of London.
What I saw when I arrived couldn’t have been further from my imagination. I was greeted by a dull shapeless building hidden away from the main road; inside, the carpets were badly worn with years of spat out chewing gum etched deep into almost every surface area. Graffiti was rampant; hand-written signs and posters lined the worn paintwork of the walls and it was incredibly difficult to tell whether the school budget extended to cleaners. I made the mistake of asking to use the ladies before my presentation and discovered even more marker pen graffiti, a shortage of toilet roll, and no soap dispensers. “Where’s the soap?” I asked my Year 9 chaperone. “There is no soap,” she replied. “You mean they’ve run out?” I asked. “No, there just is no soap.” Wow, so far so Dangerous Minds!
Speaking to the student on the staircase up to the third floor where my talk would take place, it became clear to me what kind of school I’d found myself in. This was a school struggling to do its best for its students with very little resources and a building that could stamp out even the fieriest of passions. At the end of my session, as I said goodbye to the fantastic Year 11 group I had spoken to and the lovely teacher who invited me down to inspire her young people, I made a decision that I was never going to send my future children to a school like this.
A tale of two primary schools
This reminded me of the time I jogged past two primary schools on a weekday morning, within five minutes walk of each other. In one school the kids arrived dressed in full-length wool winter coats and matching French berets, mini versions of their affluent parents; at the other school the kids mostly rolled up to the gates in the same scooters as the other children but with a distinct difference in uniform and appearance. It didn’t need a genius to figure out which of the two was a private school and which, behind closed doors, would provide a better education for the children and in so doing a better headstart in life.
The young people I met at this secondary school were so bright and so full of potential that I couldn’t help but wonder if a different environment altogether would encourage their growth a lot more and fuel new and higher-reaching ambitions. It dawned on me then that as an individual I have the power to make a difference to the lives of these young people; the power lies in me committing to being the very best me that I can be – not just so I can be a better example and role model for what’s possible, but also that I can attain the necessary resources to create environments in schools and colleges that is conducive to a good education and a better future, a passion I have newly discovered.
Martin Luther King had a dream that continues to change lives this very day, several decades after his death. I truly believe that we owe it to ourselves, to our children, and to the generations to come to fulfil the amazing potential that lies within us and to live a life far above the mediocrity that is generally accepted as the norm. Are you stuck in a dead end job you don’t like? Have you had a business idea you’ve been sleeping on for years? Are you procrastinating on writing that book you’ve been carrying for months? There is no better time to start making a difference in your own life than today. Commit with me to being the very best you that you can be and even if your impact is not as wide-reaching as King’s, someone somewhere will have a better future tomorrow because of your actions today.
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