who am i?
My name is Imani, and I’m a Churchill College alumna. I graduated in 2019 and was the only black woman graduand in my undergraduate cohort that year. My passion is simple: to give back and help others excel and achieve their success, wherever I can.
I am currently working with the Churchill Development Office to seek support for a new annual financial award to support and encourage students of Black Caribbean and/or Black African descent who are either pursuing undergraduate study at Churchill College, current offer-holders or working with the College’s widening participation team in order to help address the historic under-representation of black students at Cambridge University.
When I joined Cambridge as an undergraduate in 2015, only 15 black males were admitted to the university in my year, out of thousands of freshers. I am passionate about education and encouraging those from underrepresented backgrounds to excel. In June 2020, having seen the disruption students faced as a result of the pandemic, plus the painful tragedies our black community witnessed that year with the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent BLM marches, I was looking for a way to do something positive and lasting to make a change in my community. I decided to start the ISLA Gift and made an annual pledge to offer financial support of £50 and academic mentorship to 3 black students. I launched the appeal, news spread and I was over-joyed when donors and mentor partners stepped forward to offer their support for the scheme. As a result, I was able to award a double cash gift of £100 to a total of 17 winners, rather than just 3, and I was also able to offer academic mentoring support to an additional 21 students thanks to the support of my mentor partners.
I was inspired to do even more and decided to approach Churchill College as I knew they were looking for ways to help address the historic under-representation of British Black students at the University of Cambridge. Churchill College was a place where I had felt comfortable, supported and safe as an undergraduate student at Cambridge because of the relaxed environment, peaceful location and diverse student population, making it a haven for students of all backgrounds.
I also believe that the College's historic championing of inclusion is another reason why the ISLA Gift Cambridge is best seated here. The College supports a range of bursaries including Winston Churchill Top-Up Bursaries, a token of Churchill's commitment to encouraging those from all backgrounds to succeed in their studies at Cambridge. This additional financial support greatly helped me personally as a student and is one of the key reasons, I believe, that I was able to focus on my studies, rather than worry about finances, and to eventually graduate with a First Class degree.
Where will the money go?
The key aim of the ISLA Gift Cambridge at Churchill College is to support and encourage students of Black African or African-Caribbean descent with their educational aspirations and to encourage more applications to Churchill College and Cambridge from this underrepresented group.
The award will be open to UK undergraduate students of Black African or African-Caribbean heritage at Churchill College or who are holding offers from Churchill College. In future years we are also planning to extend the award to students from schools and colleges who partner with Churchill College through its outreach/widening participation work and are of Black African or Black African-Caribbean heritage.
The aim of the fund is to give cash awards of £100-£300 to recognise outstanding achievement in the following key areas:
- Achieved academic grades (GCSE or equivalent and above)
- Music /the Arts
- Science and Technology (outside the curriculum, e.g. Olympiads; scientific or technological creativity or innovation)
- Initiatives creating a positive social, educational and community impact
- Other extra-curricular activities
If the appeal reaches the target set of £3,000 the College will be able to award a total of 10 winners with maximum cash awards of £300 over the first two years.
Awardees will also have access to informal mentoring from Churchill alumni.
Any extra funds raised will be used to support the award in future years thereby deepening the long-term impact of the award.
We have a wide range of rewards to thank everyone who donates, whatever the amount you might give.
Two of the reward levels include the option to take up a coaching opportunity with Imani. Imani runs a coaching business, called ISLA Coaching, offering everything from introductory and beginner French lessons, to Exam-readiness consultations, mock interviews to CV review and copy-edits. For details on the specific coaching sessions available, please visit Imani’s website: imanishola.co.uk/isla
Find us here
Churchill College website: www.chu.cam.ac.uk
Imani's website: imanishola.co.uk/isla
Imani's Instagram: instagram.com/imanishola
Imani's Twitter: twitter.com/imanishola
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