Being the Change I Want To See | Bishop's Hatfield Girls' School Alumna Association

A famous statement once said by Gandhi says “Be the change you want to see”. This embodies the foundation in which the Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School Alumna Association was created upon. Over the past three years, I have had the privilege to lead a movement that has inspired 360 female students aged 14-15 on their future career endeavors. I believe that every individual is born with a purpose and the beauty of life is discovering the dimensions to your purpose and living boldly in it.

The Beginning

The beginning steps that led to the creation of the Alumna Association started from a brief scenario that occurred during a school day in 2011. A few ex-students of the school who were probably recent graduates or working professionals at the time, returned to visit teachers and update them on what they were up to since leaving. After recognizing the faces of the leavers, I was eager to go and ask questions on what they had been up to since leaving, their career trajectory, what jobs roles they were in, how they managed to get a job - the whole works! But the 14-year-old me quickly shunned off the idea of possibly asking such intrusive questions so then, I turned to face my proceeding German class. Little did I know, that short moment would be the seed towards a project years later. Fast forward August 2015, A-Level Results Day, I found myself sitting in the school hall, gazing in shock at my firmly accepted unconditional offer to study BSc Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London after missing the entry criteria and going through various academic challenges across those two years studying A-Levels. At that point in time, I knew that the academic transition I was about to embark on served a bigger purpose than just receiving a degree at a Russell Group institution and that was when the flashback to that day in 2011 came back to my memory.

There I was, off to study in the City and live the dream I held onto so dear over those years studying A-Level. But a part of me still remained attached to the school and the prospects of the students who would be facing similar challenges and obstacles I faced during the latter stages of my secondary school education. My stance was that as long as I remain climbing the ladder of my dreams, others should also get the chance follow and get the opportunity to aspire to achieve whatever they desire regardless of socioeconomic status, personal difficulties etc.

Why not develop a network of female leavers from the school and create a day dedicated to celebrate their victories and share their journies with current students?

Developing the Alumni Association

"Alumna" means a female former pupil or student of a particular school, college, or university. I truly believe that there is a wealth of knowledge stored within Alumni networks be it within schools, universities or activity groups. Each person’s story and experience hold immense value and should have a platform to be showcased to encourage others. Sharing experiences enables us to highlight previous mistakes, identify methods that led to success and acknowledge that we aren't alone in the circumstances we find ourselves in.

In December 2015, I found myself back in the office of the Deputy Head explaining my ideas and thoughts about creating this platform. I was given the go ahead and received support since then. In addition, to ensure that the vision and objectives of the Alumna Association were accepted within the school community, forming a bond between the Old Girls’ Association was fundamental. This required attending a committee meeting to explain and discuss the idea for the Alumna Association as well as plans for future events. As soon as the Committee were on board and approved that our objectives and motives were parallel, the work began.

As the project started from scratch, the first step was to build a network. I started by using Facebook as a tool to build the original connections of the network, sending continuous messages from one friend to the next, and sending bulk emails to contacts that friends and teachers had. Progress was incredibly slow at the start but I soon realised that I hit a jackpot when the figures started rising due to a snowball effect through word of mouth and the power of social media. To date we now have a database of over 300 Alumni members. Network developed = tick. What’s next?

As previously mentioned, the real core of developing the network (Alumna Association) was to give birth to the Alumna Day – a day to unite the past to enhance the present. This was my next step. Alumna Day is not just an event where people talk about their paths post secondary education. It is a fuelling of hope and aspiration to the lives of females who are our future leaders. It is about equipping a generation who need to hear the tests and trials of reality and be ready to face the challenges as they come.

Alumna Day 2016

Working with the Deputy Head, enabled me to translate my ball of creativity to a feasible structured event. Months planning brought about the first Alumna Day in July 2016.

First ever Alumna Day event held in July 2016 

Alumna Day 2016 

Our Alumna network provided the connections to Entrepreneurs, students studying Medicine and Dentistry, a solicitor, a Project Manager, a STEM student and many more Alumna/parents of Alumna who were able to run workshops based on their careers throughout the day.

Alumna Day 2017

After the success of 2016, I was asked to take on the challenge of running another Alumna Day for 2017. The first thought that popped to mind was: How was I going to outdo what was achieved in 2016? A famous African proverb I once read says: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. From there, I knew that the task ahead could not be done independently so with encouragement from the Deputy Head, I rallied a few ex-students I knew and friends who also went to the school and formed a team for Alumna Day 2017. Our first Skype meeting commenced in January 2017 and from there, ideas were refined and thoughts were translated into reality. By July 2017, we found ourselves with a set of 12 new Alumna volunteers from different career industries including Veterinary Science, Town Planning, Medicine, Dog Grooming and many more. We were also fortunate enough to gain sponsorship from University of Hertfordshire, Europa Stationary, Greenwich Peninsula and Nu Notebooks contributing various items towards the event.

Alumna Day 2017

Alumna Day 2017

Lessons learnt and the journey ahead

To summarise, this experience has given me an indication of what qualities and traits a leader should possess. Translating this thought of building a community to impact the lives of others into reality has been a challenge but to know that the challenges faced have led to a positive impact in my community is overwhelming and gives me great joy. I have been able to analyse my strengths and weaknesses. I have also been able to meet people from all different spheres of life, build professional vocabulary and rekindle old friendships by going ahead with this initiative. I have able to gain knowledge and develop my skills in building networks by meeting with neighbouring schools Alumni Officers and understanding how they built their own Alumni networks and the benefits it has provided for their school community. Even though I am not perfect and still striving to learn more, this experience has provided a life-shifting perspective on what I hope to dedicate my life to - using my gifts and skills for the service of others.

For the hours spent designing logos, eye catching graphics – it was worth it. For the bus and tube journeys consumed with ideas bursting towards each Alumna Day – it was worth it. For the hundreds of emails, tweets, texts sent to sponsors, guest speakers and teachers – it was worth it. To the amazing team I work with to make this all happen – it was worth it. Reading through the feedback forms from the Year 10 students who took part in Alumna Day 2017 last week has indicated to me that a seed of hope has been planted in the hearts of these students which means our objectives have been accomplished. Being the change you want to see is not easy to achieve but with a supportive network around you and the drive to succeed, anything is possible.

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