‘I want to help and inspire others’: Lancashire educational mentoring scheme changing kids’ lives

Before taking part in a FutureU mentoring scheme in 2019, then-15-year-old Jahnaya Alexander had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. The programme, however, changed everything.

“I hadn’t really thought about my future before the mentoring scheme,” says Jahnaya, 18, from Skelmersdale. “I was just planning on going straight into work as soon as I could; I was teaching dance but I never saw it as a career and I would’ve laughed if you’d told me I could go to university back then.”

An invaluable mentoring scheme which works across Lancashire to encourage more people to consider higher education, FutureU offers advice on apprenticeships, university, and student finance, particularly within communities and families from which young people are less likely to consider further education.

Since 2017, FutureU has delivered over 1,100 careers sessions across 70 schools and colleges the length and breadth of the county, whilst also creating a range of educational and careers resources for wider use. Part of the national Uni Connect Programme and is funded by the Office for Students, the programme is already paying dividends.

Oliver Norris of FutureU

“Over the mentoring sessions, I began to realise I could be successful at what I wanted to do,” says Jahnaya, who went on to study Sports, Fitness, and Personal Training at West Lancashire College. “I decided working towards becoming a P.E. teacher would let me help people and inspire others.”

Now with a conditional offer to study Sport and Physical Education at Edge Hill University in September, Jahnaya is also hoping to become a FutureU mentor herself so as to encourage others to follow in her footsteps and gain invaluable insight into how pathways into further education can open up countless new opportunities.

Having embraced FutureU’s careers advice programme whilst at Up Holland High School during an eight-week course of team-building activities, future-mapping, and information on pathways, Jahnaya emerged with a keener sense of focus. For the first time, she was able to

envisage a future career and the steps she would need to take towards her dream role.

Future U continues to support young people into higher education.jpg

“I’ve already done some mentoring with young people,” says Jahnaya. “Friends from my school keep in touch with me as their mentor – some recently rang to tell me about their mock exam results. Mentoring developed me as a person and, as I see the best in every child, I want to bring that out in other young people who are unsure of their next steps.”

Oliver Norris, who is the Senior Outreach Officer at FutureU, is unequivocal in his praise for Jahnaya and the progress she’s made over the past few years.

“Jahnaya’s story should be an inspiration for any young person who is unsure of what they want to do with their future,” he said. “[She] will be a fantastic mentor and I’m sure she’ll inspire plenty of others.

“Each young person has a passion that could lead to a future career or qualification,” Oliver adds. “Our mentoring scheme [gives] young people important advice on the next steps.”

Jahnaya Alexander hopes her story will encourage more young people to follow their career dreams