Teenager’s tale an inspiration for young people

A Lancashire teenager is encouraging more young people to explore life at university, after a careers advice programme helped her make steps towards her dream job.

Jahnaya Alexander, 18, from Skelmersdale is set to start at Edge Hill University later this year, after support from Future U’s mentoring scheme helped her decide on her next steps after leaving college.

Jahnaya took part in a Future U mentoring scheme back in 2019 when she was at Up Holland High School, which encouraged her to think about her future after leaving school and the education routes to get the qualifications needed for her dream job as PE teacher.

A self-described “troubled teen”, Jahnaya admits she lacked focus before starting the Future U mentoring programme, where peers who have started university worked with her on an eight-week programme designed to help her think about a future career and the steps that she would need to start towards her dream role.

“I hadn’t really thought about my future before the mentoring scheme,” Jahnaya says. “If anything, I was just planning on going straight into work as soon as I could, however after hearing about the sessions everything changed for me.

“I was teaching some dance at the time, but I never saw it as a career and would have laughed if you’d told me I could go to university back then.”

The mentoring sessions included team building activities, future mapping and hearing about the different pathways to work, including the benefits of a university degree. Future U works across Lancashire to encourage more people to consider higher education, particularly within communities and families where young people are less likely to think about university. As well as offering support, it can also offer advice on schemes such as apprenticeships, as well as information on life at university and handling student finance.

For Jahnaya, the sessions not only helped her to clarify her future aspirations but with a goal of qualifying for college and then university her schoolwork improved too. Teachers found that Jahnaya’s was more driven as she completed her work and exam revision to get the results she needed to start a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sports, Fitness and Personal Training at West Lancashire College.

She continues: “Over the mentoring sessions, I began to realise I could be successful at what I wanted to do and decided working towards becoming a qualified PE teacher would let me help people and inspire others.”

Three years after the mentoring, Jahnaya now has a conditional offer to study Sport and Physical Education at Edge Hill University in September. In addition to finding her own career path, Jahnaya is now looking to give back to the community, hoping to become a Future U mentor for similar students who are unsure of their next steps. She hopes her story will help inspire more young people who are unsure of their career plans to find a purpose in life so they can work hard towards it.

“I have already done some mentoring with young people, and friends from my school will keep in touch with me as their mentor – with some recently ringing 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.”

Since the start of the project in 2017, Future U has delivered over 1,100 careers activities across 70 schools and colleges in the area, in addition to creating a range of educational and careers resources available to download from its website, www.lancashirefutureu.org.uk.

Oliver Norris, Senior Outreach Officer at Future U, said: “Jahnaya’s story should be an inspiration for any young person who is unsure of what they want to do with their future.

“Each young person has a passion that could lead to a future career or qualification which they are passionate about and our mentoring scheme allows young people who have similar backgrounds and can offer important advice on the next steps.

“Jahnaya will be a fantastic student mentor this year and I’m sure she will inspire plenty of others to focus on possibilities for them when they finish school or college.”

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