Alumni - Jade Uko
Jade attended Bedford College and was a winner of the Smart Teachers Award in 2008. When Jade was first told about the possibility of applying to HKF for a bursary her first question was "Helena who?" - however Helena quickly became an icon for her. Jade wasn't sure if she was worthy of an award but went ahead and applied and was shocked and surprised to win enabling her to attend the University of Cambridge.
The bursary is only one aspect of the HKF award but it was a real help as Jade had completed college with an old, malfunctioning computer and was able to buy a new laptop which proved indispensable for university. "Many of my peers would have taken that for granted but there was no way I could have afforded such luxuries living on benefits. I was also able to buy new outfits for university. This may seem like a trivial thing but, for me, it was a confidence boost. I had relied on hand-me-downs and second hand clothes for so many years, I did not want to feel out of place with my peers." says Jade.
Jade completed her degree and has gone on to a successful career as a marketing analyst and researcher. She is now Bedford Borough Council's youngest female councillor and Deputy Speaker of the council but she had a very shaky start!
Jade says: "I was pregnant at 15 and homeless at 16. It was my baby daughter that first gave me the inspiration to go back to education and make something of our lives. I knew I wanted to go to university to study history even then, but never did I imagine I would go to Cambridge.
I was looked down on as young mother on benefits. At the Job Centre they used to ask me my interests. When I said politics they scoffed and told me to take cleaning jobs. Now that I am an elected Councillor I look back on those days with sadness about what I had to face. But those people did me a favour; they made me determined to succeed so that I would never have to face them again. The award gave me self-confidence and was recognition that I was about to change the course of my life. To know that there was additional support behind just the bursary was an extra source of comfort throughout my degree."
So what message would Jade like to pass onto existing and potential sponsors?
"Barriers into education are rising for many. I see the negative effects of poverty and underachievement everyday as a Councillor representing a ward where pockets are in the most deprived 10% in the country. The issues that face this group of people are multiple and varied. Once they get to a point where they are applying for this award, they have already overcome hardships the likes of which many will never know. The evidence shows that achieving entry into university does not end the barriers; they still face obstacles due to the lack of financial resources, networks and cultural education. The HKF helps to level that playing field through support, a bursary and confidence building. It may seem like only a small proportion of the cost of university, and it is. But it’s a recognition of achievement and a stepping stone to the future. It signals that change is around the corner and it’s a powerful message of hope."
Finally, Jade would give the following message to current award winners: "Congratulations, you have worked hard and are a shining example of hope to your families, classmates and communities. University will be challenging but, because you are used to overcoming barriers, you will jump them without breaking stride. Always look to the future and visualise where you want to be. Having an aim focuses your ambition taking you on to where you want to be.
Everyone at HKF is very proud of Jade and her achievements and wish her all the best in the future in which she just wants to “help others and serve my community”.