What do you think it means to be a leader at School?
- For me, the biggest part of being a leader at school is definitely in being a visible role model to other pupils. The opportunity to show what can be achieved with hard work, commitment and enthusiasm is something that I treasure, and that I’ve enjoyed making the most of over this academic year.
As Head of Academic Scholars, what changes have you made this year?
- I am incredibly proud to have been the first Head of Academic Scholars at Ashford, and to have spent my time working with members of staff to shape a programme for these students with mentoring, extension lectures and society teas as key elements. We have been able to create a programme for the scholars with a tangible impact and have brought together a strong community of scholars across the age groups, who I am sure will flourish and grow over the coming years together. I am pleased to have made the most of the opportunity to build recognition and support for our most academically minded students, and to help them to thrive during their time here.
You recently travelled to the USA on a Cyber Security programme. Can you tell us about the trip and how you were selected to attend?
- In the summer of Year 11 (on completion of my GCSEs), I was incredibly fortunate to attend the Future Cybersecurity Leaders Exchange Programme, funded by the US Embassy. This was a two-week trip to Boston, Burlington and Washington DC, where I attended college-style cybersecurity lectures, explored culture with my US and UK counterparts, and participated in boardroom meetings with leaders in the public and private sector. This was, for me, the most inspiring element – talking to industry professionals in government agencies and embassies kickstarted my passion for international cybersecurity, built my confidence, helped me to network, provided invaluable career advice, and motivated me by showing what I was capable of achieving.
- This entire experience was a result of participating in an online government initiative: Cyber Discovery. I started with nothing more than a love of technology, but through dedicating time to the interactive challenges and learning modules, I was successful enough to receive an invitation to be a ‘Future Cybersecurity Leader’. The greatest benefit for me, from the whole process, was beyond the cyber education; it was discovering how much can be achieved through dedication to your passions, enthusiasm, and from seizing opportunities wholeheartedly.
How has Ashford School enabled you to pursue your passions within STEM and Cyber Security?
- Ashford School has always been my safe ‘base’ from which to explore, and a place from where I have been encouraged to find my passions. My grounding in STEM is certainly thanks to the incredible science department, and I am grateful to the school for acting as a platform for me to share my achievements.
- Even during independent work, the school has played a role – I recently completed an external Extended Project Qualification, a Qufaro CyberEPQ on the consequences of using foreign hardware and software on national security and the privacy of the public, which scored top marks and received industry recognition. The school offered to fund this amazing opportunity for me, which otherwise might not have been possible.
Is there a particular teacher who has inspired you and helped you to reach where you are today? Who and how?
- I have thrived under the guidance of a number of teachers at the school and am extremely grateful for the support that I’ve received over my seven years here. I would like to thank Dr Thompson in particular, for her steadfast belief in me, as a tutee for three years as well as in her maths classroom, which has ensured that I have the confidence and self-belief to tackle any challenges that I may face.
What are you career aspirations for when you leave Ashford School?
- Computer Science is my passion, and I have an offer to study at Oxford from 2020, which I am very excited for! This has been my biggest goal for a long time, so I now have the luxury of experiencing the subject and generating a new set of goals. In the longer-term, I would love to contribute to the industry and to enrich our interactions with technology on an international scale.
How do you spend your free time?
- When in school, I filled my free time with activities and clubs, including playing the violin (practising, or in the orchestra), singing in the chamber choir, and participating in sports. Now, I still enjoy music and go for daily long walks in the countryside, which are the best part of my day. Reading is a passion I am glad to have had more time for recently, usually in adventure stories, or non-fiction in neuroscience or computing. I’ve also revived my Spanish properly for the first time post-GCSEs, which has been a huge source of enjoyment.
Tell us about your favourite memory at School to date.
- There have definitely been some highlights to my time at the school, like charity events or the last day of Year 11. For me though, the best moments have been musical. I remember the incredible experience of visiting and singing in Canterbury Cathedral with the Chamber Choir in 2017, which must be my most special moment at the school, alongside singing in Carols by Candlelight at St Mary’s Church in the last week of every Michaelmas term, which always adds magic before the Christmas Holidays.
Within School you are also a very active violinist. What do you enjoy most about playing this instrument?
- I love the technical demands of the violin. It’s considered one of the most difficult instruments to play well, so while it’s very difficult to pick up, it must be one of the most rewarding instruments to learn. I love the versatility of the instrument, and I really benefitted from the strong music culture of the school department. Ashford’s music department provides so many opportunities to play in the orchestra, ensembles, chamber groups and to perform solos, and puts on large concerts throughout the year. I started violin at a young age, and my teacher is incredibly inspiring – lessons are always a highlight of my week!