From Caving to Canvassing – Harry helps to raise school children’s aspirations
Harry Kent, who graduates on 15 July with a “first” in Biomedical Science, is proof of the success of the University of Sussex’s First Generation Scholar initiative and its efforts to raise the aspirations of young people.
He plans next to apply for a scholarship for a Masters degree and is considering a PhD, but in the short term he is keen to carry on giving back by reaching out to other young people to encourage them to aim high.
Neither of his parents went to university and many of his peers at Portslade Community College did not go either, but that did not hold him back.
The University of Sussex puts a lot of effort going into local schools persuading pupils to aim high – and Harry was among those who has benefited. “I was already quite used to the Sussex campus so it wasn’t too much of a shock when I got here. I had done lots of taster days and trips to Sussex as part of what was then known as the Gifted and Talented Programme and Aim Higher,” he says.
Harry spent plenty of his spare time working as a student ambassador whilst studying as an undergraduate. He went to schools all over London and the south east talking to students, parents and teachers about university and all the opportunities it provides. “It was a lot of fun! The students asked loads of questions and really interacted with us. We worked with students from year 7 all the way through to year 13, so adjusting our presentations to the right level was really important. The schools were incredible at being encouraging,” he says.
“The parents focussed on the logistical and financial side of higher education. When they find out about how loans and grants actually work they are generally more positive about the prospects of their young person going into higher education. It was nice to be able to reassure them they would not have to take out a mortgage,” says Harry.
His work also took him on a camping and caving expedition to Somerset with a group of AS level students at the end of their nine-month Sussex Study Experience (SSE). SSE is an outreach programme for year 12 pupils from communities where progression to university is rare. The trip was for team building and confidence building. “The students really enjoyed (most) of the activities. Caving was definitely a Marmite activity – but everyone had a go,” says Harry.
He also helped make Biomedical Science accessible to children. “I produced and delivered taster sessions to students both on campus and on outreach visits. It was really challenging to try and explain just a small part of my degree in an interactive way to students. But it was a really great experience.”