WE RISE NEWS: MAYA’S STORY – “I wish I’d had We Rise”

Maya talking to Sarah from the Brixton Project at our November event
Maya talking to Sarah from the Brixton Project at our November event

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this 

I wish We Rise had been around when I was a teenager as they would have made a difference.

This is my story.

I’m 23 years old. I’ve graduated from university. I’m homeless and broke with no idea what to do next. I’m stuck in a job I’m overqualified for, earning £8.53 an hour and trying to clear my graduate overdraft. I’m not even thinking about the £55k of student debt that keeps on growing. I just hope my most recent job application will be successful. 

University is the key to launching yourself into success, or so I was told throughout my primary and secondary school. 

If only I knew then what I know now. 

Life was tough for us

As a young child I was seen as ‘dreamy’. Diagnosed with dyslexia at 9 I was underestimated a lot at primary school. Despite beating the top set children in a maths challenge at 10 I was placed in the lowest sets. It made me feel I was stupid. I could see I was put at the bottom along with other mixed race and black children. I later found out I had ADHD but I wasn’t assessed until I was 17. 

My father passed away when I was 12. This was a massive shock and left my mum alone with four children and struggling with debt. Our family moved back to London and, as the eldest, I helped my mum raise my three younger siblings. We were overcrowded, five of us in a 2 bedroom flat in Brixton for eight years. My mum slept every night on the sofa as there wasn’t space for a bed. 

I was always very creative and loved painting. My teachers said I had ability and talent. My dyslexia made me creative but I often found solutions no-one else could see. But I found it hard to be focussed and organised. I started at Dunraven in year 8. I worked hard, got support with my dyslexia and did well in my GCSE’s. Amazingly, I gained 12 GCSEs at grade C-A*.

Academic study was hard for me

Things got tough after that. A levels were very academic and there was no support for my dyslexia. I struggled to get my A levels and decided to follow what I enjoyed. With little advice, I picked a foundation course in Art and Design at the University of the Creative Arts in Epsom. I then applied to Nottingham Trent University to study a BA in Fashion Design.

University was really hard. My time in Nottingham was possibly the worst 3 years of my life. I didn’t feel like I belonged. I had begun to suffer from depression and social anxiety and it became more difficult to manage. 

Every holiday I worked at SuperDry in Westfield so I wasn’t able to work on my projects or get extra work experience –  if I had known this was something I needed. 

The course was oversubscribed so only the most confident students got support from the tutors and help from technicians with our final show. But I stuck at it and put on a final show.

Maya’s degree show
Maya’s degree show

It’s been over a year now since I completed my degree 

I still work at the same retail job I got during university. I am constantly on the look-out for something better, but without connections to help me get a foot in the door I feel stuck 

What would have helped me?

Growing up we are sold a dream that finding a career is simple. Go to university, get a degree, get a well paid job, move out and succeed. 

It’s not like that. Young people like me need help.

So what would have helped me?

I wish I had met more people who could have guided me when I was young.

  • I wish I’d had opportunities to explore what industry and role would suit me best. 
  • I wish I’d had the chance to meet people in different jobs and learn from them.
  • I wish that I had been able to attend events where I could find out what experience and qualifications are required.
  • I wish I had been able to have more work experience. 

I wish I’d had We Rise.

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