Walid was 13 years old when he first came to Academic Support at our newly-opened East Ham centre. Walid’s Mum initially suggested he go to the centre to challenge himself.
“I think she probably walked by the centre because my sister went to Brampton Primary at that time. And then she told me, ‘you’re going to go to this IntoUniversity after-school club,’ and I resisted at first but she said ‘just try it out for like a week. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go. If you do like it, then just stay.’ So I said ‘Fine, I’ll go. I’ll try for one week.’ And here we are [laughs].
“They had a volunteer who had studied Maths at university. And I was really good at Maths. And so I asked him, ‘hey, look, I’ve done my homework already. What do you think I should do?’ And then he was really nice and really helpful; he gave me problems for levels above what I was doing. Also, I met my friend Hisham there in the first week, and we’re still friends today. He was also really good at Maths and went to a different school and I was like, OK, there’s people more like me [at the centre]. I can actually relate to them more.”
When it came to choosing to pursue a career in Medicine, there were lots of complimenting factors.
“My parents were a huge influence and guided me; I can’t repay them enough to be honest. From waiting for me after school so that I could attend my clubs, to reassuring me when times were tough. They have sacrificed so much to ensure that I had a good support network around me and provided me with so many opportunities; IntoUniversity being one of them. But of course my parents didn’t go to university so we didn’t even know what university was. My older sister played a very big role and also went to IntoUniversity and went onto study Medicine at university. So she was first and I used to look at her and think ‘OK, what is she going through? Who’s she talking to?’
“IntoUniversity gave us the resources, the people to talk to and the knowledge for that because we didn’t have anyone else to go to and ask these kinds of questions like: How do you become a doctor? How do you become a lawyer? At the beginning, we knew nothing about university. And, at the end of it, now we are all attending, so IntoUniversity’s support was very vital.
“My youngest sister just got offers for Medicine at Kings, Southampton and Leicester last week. I look forward to giving her her first campus tour of Guys. So that completed the four of us [studying Medicine at university]. [laughs]”
Walid has been back to the East Ham centre to mentor students twice.
“The [IntoUniversity] students who have been through the university system and have been successful, I think they are a very good example to show the younger students what they can achieve because maybe they don’t know the potential they have. How I see it, younger students are like stem cells in biology; they can turn into anything. They have this unbelievable potential and IntoUniversity is there to act like a catalyst, building them up into the best they can be.”
For Walid, what makes the centre special is the people, particularly the staff.
“I think the staff deserve their flowers. I feel as if they have improved me so much, not just academically but socially as well. They were so caring and welcoming, and they took care of everyone’s needs. Maybe they don’t know the impact they have at the time. Even the children who act like they don’t really want to be there at the time, I think they’ll probably realise later on the opportunity that [IntoUniversity] has given them. Literally there there’s so many wrong places young people could go after school and they could get involved in something they shouldn’t.”
“To be honest, there was no silver spoon for me, so I think the opportunity that [IntoUniversity] gives us almost makes it a level playing field. These kinds of opportunities, I’d never ever get if it wasn’t for IntoUniversity. What they’re doing, it’s generational. That’s the only way I can put it.”