By Sophie, an MTL Fellow
‘I grew up on a south London council estate with my single mother, who struggled to support us on benefits. My dad was not really in my life, and I would only see him as what I referred to as special occasions such as Christmas and my birthday. At points in my childhood, I would feel a sense of rejection. In addition to this, my mum did not offer much emotional support to aid the situation. She seemed cold to me at times and would be a strict disciplinarian. As a child, I perceived her as cruel as she would say hurtful things such as I was the reason why my dad would not see me. She also had bad listening skills, where I would try to explain my point of view but she would never listen or let me speak. I feel that this is had a negative effect on my ability to articulate myself today.
Later in my childhood, I was told by my older brother that my mum had suffered from mental health problems, which made me understand her behaviour towards me. Things got worse in my teenage years when her boyfriend moved in, as he made me feel intimidated in my own home. I witnessed how he emotionally and sometimes physically abused my mum. Also, he would steal money and expensive things which I had saved up for. My mum knew this was happening but would overlook it. These were the years where I felt most alone and feel like I was growing myself up. In addition, with my mum’s mental state, she would always come to me for emotionally support and advice. Therefore, there were many times where I felt where tables were turned and I was the parent.
However, from as young as I can remember I always knew that I wanted better for myself. I wanted to be educated, as I knew it would lead me to have a good job. Despite what was going on at home, I always remained positive, enjoyed school and always got good school reports.
When I went to college I was exceeding expectations, and there was an exam period where I got all A’s in my exams. I had started to become more confident, and my next step in achieving my ultimate goal of making a better life for myself by getting into university. I worked hard and got into a Russell Group university. To this date, I would say this is my greatest achievement.
However, whilst at university I started to feel out of my depth. This was due to the fact that being with people who had come from privileged backgrounds, I felt that they were more equipped to deal with university work. In addition, because I wasn’t doing as well as others, I felt at points, less deserving to be there. This wasn’t helped by my home situation, where my mother was not really an advocate of me going to university, and felt that I thought I was better than her. I learnt not to tell her how much I was struggling, as she always encouraged me to quit, and so I knew she was not the best person to go to for encouragement or motivation. I drew support from my university friends and managed to graduate.
After graduating I felt lost. Throughout my life, I always knew of the next step. For instance, being in school, you were aiming to go to college and from college to university. But now I felt I was in a dark tunnel where I could not plan where my life was heading.
One day I came across Making The Leap on my Facebook timeline. I was reading through the description of one of their workshops and it looked really promising. Although I had been to similar workshops and did not find them helpful, I felt that I had nothing to lose.
My first impression was that the staff was really down to earth, but they were committed to helping me to reach my potential. When I had my one to one with Gareth in the outreach team before starting the workshop, I felt a sense of optimism and that a burden had been lifted off my shoulders, as my path to my goal of creating a better future for myself became clearer.
At first, I was thinking to myself why was MTL’s workshop three weeks long, as mentioned before I had been to similar events, which were a few days at the most. But as I got into it, I realised how intensive it was and the fact that I was learning simple things I had never even thought of before, such as the power of a smile and a handshake in created first impressions. Alongside this, I developed my writing skills as I improved the quality of cover letters and speculative letters. Before I would write a sentence or two directing them to my CV, and thanking them for taking the time to look at it. Now I can write a page describing why I should get a particular job, which I now realise is more effective.
But the biggest thing that I have gained while being at MTL is confidence. Before I came I was doubting my skillset and did not really like being in the spotlight. When teachers would praise me in front of my classmates I would shy away and feel uncomfortable. Coming to MTL gave me the confidence to believe that what I had to say had value.
Since graduating from MTL’s workshop I have had exceptional nonstop support. I have had access to mock interviews, advice from MTL staff and help from their Career Coach. All of this support without a doubt has helped me secure a position at a leading London company, which I am tremendously grateful for.
I have been reassured that this does mean the end of the relationship that I will have with MTL. They will still be there to support me for personal as well as work-related issues that I may have. This is beyond what I expected from them and demonstrates their dedication to helping young people.
I feel I am somewhat unique in that I have never let my background make me have a deterministic mindset. I have always had the sense that I am somewhat in control of my own destiny. However, MTL gave me the tools to put my thoughts into realistic goals. Without them, I would not have secured a role within such a quick space of time. It is definitely a charity I will promote and support in the future.
I would recommend MTL to everyone. It is nothing like I have ever experienced before, and has taught me things that I will remember for life. I am confident that I have forged long lasting relationships with the other young people I was with on the workshop, and am excited about what the future holds.’