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From student mentor to CEO: how volunteering changed my life

Every year, doors swing open for thousands of students, ushering them into a world of possibilities, just an application form away from the bustling campuses of top universities like King's, Cambridge, Harvard, or Yale. These applications feel tedious for some, disheartening or seemingly impossible for many others. That is, assuming they gather the courage to think about this possibility or are even aware of it.

If it had not been for the eye-opening nudge and helping hand of a (now close) friend I encountered by chance, who was studying in London, I probably would not have considered pursuing my International Relations degree at King’s. The prospect of being that very guiding light for someone else then led me to sign up as a mentor with Project Access International in February 2021.

A world in which passion and potential define a young person’s future

A closer look at governments, the United Nations, banks, and the executive boards of the world's largest companies reveals a common thread: most individuals in these positions have enjoyed a first-class university education. However, research indicates that college admissions often perpetuate existing inequalities, and for the more selective 'Harvards' and 'Oxbridges' of the world, the literature is even more explicit.

Given this, Project Access's ‘Theory of Change’ centres on diversifying elite universities and addressing these inequalities, with a belief in the transformative power of education as a catalyst for meaningful change. This philosophy is also evident in our mission, ‘to create a world in which passion and potential defines a young person's future’. With this vision, the charity aims not only to improve immediate access to higher education but to empower young people who have overcome barriers to step into positions of leadership, in which they can contribute to solving these wider societal challenges.

Since its inception in 2016, the heart of Project Access and our 5,000 mentors beats with a passion to support less privileged youth around the world. It is about breaking down barriers that young people face, be they financial, informational, privilege, gender, disability, class, or other, that stand in the way of a successful future.

Unlocking the doors to higher education

During my time at King's, I was consistently inspired by the genuine desire of everyone around me to make a difference and give back. The University fostered an environment where students were encouraged to think beyond themselves and engage in initiatives like Project Access, powered by the King's Accelerator. It was through fellow students at King's that I first became aware of Project Access, and it was this platform as well as the ethos of King’s and Project Access that motivated me to give back and do more. Whether it was a conversation with my peer mentor in my first year or the excitement of fellow students getting involved in social initiatives, its close-knit community was one of the many things that made King's such a special place.

Witnessing the impact of our peer-to-peer mentoring program, where mentees from around the world are supported by mentors from our target universities, I transitioned from being a mentor to a more active participant. The team's passion and dedication convinced me to take on additional roles within the organisation, eventually leading me to the position of CEO.

What sets Project Access apart is the culture of trust and ownership, allowing all members to actively shape the organisation. The support and dedication of the team, coupled with opportunities for growth, have been instrumental in my journey from mentored student to CEO. This journey underscores the transformative power of mentorship and the supportive environment fostered by institutions like King's.

Project-Access-Conference-2020-3 2
A Project Access conference with students

Join us in breaking down barriers

Over the past three years, I have always kept up my mentoring role alongside my other responsibilities and plan to continue doing so for a long time to come. Just recently, two of my mentees were accepted to Harvard and Princeton, and one is set to begin his studies at King's in the fall. While it is truly a privilege to work with some of the most devoted, passionate, and caring people on the Project Access team every day, the joy of hearing from an overwhelmed mentee who has been accepted to their dream school is hard to put into words.

Guiding a student through the admissions process is more than just an opportunity to give back. It is genuinely rewarding to be part of your mentee's journey, witnessing them grow beyond themselves, and helping them put the finishing touches to their application. At the same time, you can learn so much from these inspiring minds, and they will never cease to impress you.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor or team member, visit the King's volunteering page or email to help us break down barriers and create a world in which passion and potential define a young person’s future.