I had poor school experiences due to bullying and a late diagnosis of dyslexia and dyspraxia, but I wasn’t going to let that hold me back. I was determined to go on and do amazing things – so ending up on universal credit was disheartening. I wanted more than a ‘normal job’ where I checked in and out every day and completed mundane tasks. I wanted my job to mean something. I wanted to do something that mattered, something that would drive positive change. I also wanted to develop my own skills and do the things that, deep down, I knew I could. I just didn’t know what that job would look like, or how I would get there.
Making a change
Unlike some of my peers, I was lucky enough to have a job coach who was enthusiastic and helpful. When she told me about the peer research position, I felt a burst of excitement in the pit of my stomach. This was it; this was how I was going to make change. Peer research wasn’t something I had ever considered. I didn’t even know such jobs existed.
Because I didn’t go to university, I never thought research was for someone like me. I never even knew that such jobs excited, never mind how I would get one. The more I read the job advert, the more I knew that this was what I wanted to do. My job coach was sure of it too, as they pushed me to apply – and, with bated breath, I waited for a response.
Passion and drive
Despite being shy and lacking in confidence, working at The Young Foundation allowed me to develop my skills, confidence and push myself to meet new people. It also furthered my passion for different social issues and working across different research projects allowed me to gain an insight into the experiences of different people.
The placement was a safe place to grow ‘on the job’; I didn’t need to know everything or have it all figured out. The initial peer research training was followed by three research sprints, where I received regular feedback and continued to develop my research skills.
In my third and last sprint, I was part of a group that explored young people’s experiences of fatphobia, and it was inspiring to see how open and vulnerable everyone was – even if it was hard-hitting for us to analyse and share our stories. The Young Foundation was open to us exploring this topic, even if not everyone understood it. I went from being scared to mention the topic to speaking about it freely – something I would not have done at the beginning of my placement.
Getting paid for doing work that I care about with every fibre of my being was amazing. I was able to listen to other people’s struggles within society and give people a platform to have their voices heard. It’s been a life-changing experience. Empowering other young people has helped me on my journey of self-empowerment.