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Mrs Pattison’s Blog
Our school motto reads May Her Character and Talents Inspire Others. Never was it clearer to me that this is an intrinsic part of our daily lives at Croydon High – and therefore a most fitting mantra – than when I received an email recently from an alumna who left us in 2017. She wrote in response to our 21st birthday card to her and was happy for me to tell her story to you.
Upon leaving Croydon High, Elizabeth embarked upon a year’s travel partly funded by the GDST Travel Scholarship, the Oakley Award, which she was awarded and which enabled her to explore her chosen field from different perspectives and context.
She completed her first year with first class results and has gained funding to complete extra practical courses plus a Bursary funded by a London company. She even had the opportunity to meet Princess Anne at the university a few weeks ago. (She told me that the Princess is “surprisingly down to earth!”) She is currently applying for industry placements for next year in a large company.
She is now in only the second year of her course, yet Elizabeth has become secretary of her university’s music society and performs regularly with a band every Tuesday as lead singer, also performing at some of the University balls, to over 2000 people. She has completed work experience each summer, gaining valuable skills to support her studies and prepare her for working life.
It perhaps will not surprise you to learn that this was a straight A-student who had the pick of very many options at a wide range of universities.
We are obviously very lucky that each year we have lots of girls in that same position, many of whom go on to careers in professions such as Law, Medicine, Engineering, increasingly Computer Science or more subject-based choices such as English, History or Natural Sciences. They go to places like the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge, Durham, Bristol or Bath.
However, Elizabeth chose the thing that she was passionate about, the career that she wanted to spend the rest of her life doing. She wanted to learn from the grass roots up (you will spot the pun in a moment!) and she didn’t want to waste any time before she got started. Her choice was agriculture which she chose to study at Harper Adams, the leading specialist university tackling the future development of our planet’s food production, processing, animal sciences, engineering, land management, environmental management and sustainable business.
I will quote the last paragraph of her letter rather than paraphrase: –
“I think that the experience I had at Croydon High really helped me to become the person I am today and taught me to stand up for what I believe in. It’s not always easy being a woman working in a very male dominated industry, but I haven’t let that stop me! Although it’s unlikely, if there are any students considering a career in agriculture, feel free to pass on my details!”
Clearly, this young woman is an inspiration to us all; not just because she chose a different path from many of her peers and not just because she is obviously bright, enthusiastic and has found the thing she wants to dedicate her life to. She is an inspiration because she looks at life as a series of opportunities which allow her to learn and grow. She wears her conviction in her decisions and her strong sense of self as comfortably as a favourite sweater and displays utter determination in her ambition to be the very best version of herself that she can be.
I speak from recent personal experience of course, when I say that it is not always easy to have such courage in one’s convictions. One of the key factors in my decision to stay at Croydon High, followed a period of intense reflection where I forensically reviewed all that I (perhaps) have taken for granted in my daily life here. I realised how strongly I wished to remain in a school where I walk back to my office after assembly, humbled by the wealth of talent, breadth of opportunity and strength of character on display… and all before 9am in the morning when most people’s working day is only starting!
I also realised how much I wanted to see through the exciting projects on our strategic plan. Powerful initiatives, such as our plan to link every Pathways Career Mentoring group in the Sixth Form with an inspirational professional or undergraduate, one of the many alumnae just like Elizabeth. These amazingly generous people will offer practical help and advice to our students, as they navigate university or employment prospects, seek work experience opportunities and will work with them to create the most impressive CVs. I am also excited by the GDST App Rungway which provides advice from the 70,000+ GDST alumnae network, directly and uniquely to GDST sixth formers, by means of a simple text message. Our current sixth formers are already feeling the benefit of this incredible service.
This is the power of the GDST network, working in partnership with a truly inspirational sixth form, regarded as the pinnacle of the Croydon High experience. Our school is an environment that nurtures and challenges in equal measure and the proof of this is never more apparent than in those who—having experienced it—go on to lead such extraordinary lives.
May their character and talents continue to inspire others, not least those who follow in their footsteps or who watch with such pride.
Alumna discussing career pathways with Sixth Formers
Mrs Emma Pattison