Leap Graduates share their views on 2020

Leap’s Communications and Policy Manager, Alicia Edmund, has been listening to and interviewing Leap graduates to find out how they have been coping since the first lockdown. In October 2020, each young person was photographed either in their home borough or in a London location of significance to them and their future goals.

2020 has been a year of numbers. At the time of writing, Covid deaths in the UK stand at 49,238, with 1.5 million unemployed since June 2020 and around £41.4 billion spent by the government on the job retention scheme. 20/20 represents the goal of perfect vision, so it’s a tad ironic that this year has brought into sharp focus how unequal British society is across age, regions, race and class. As a society, we have grown used to news headlines sharing growing numbers of cases, high death tolls and rising unemployment, but I fear we have lost our ability to empathise with a single story; especially those aged between 13 – 25 during this time. How many times have you considered how young people must be feeling and adjusting to drastic changes to their education and their futures?

Sadly, I haven’t considered this question enough. I know for myself I have found this year deeply frustrating – holidays cancelled, moving out delayed and socialising with friends limited, but when I compare my situation to the stories of these seven young people and Gen Z more widely, I realise how privileged my circumstances are in comparison. I am in a job, with a secure income. My home is spacious enough to work in one room and in another relax and unwind while national lockdown measures are in place. For the younger generation, that is not always the case. The work of Lee Elliot Major (Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter) on Generation Covid: emerging work and education inequalities makes for grim reading in mapping the landscape that under-25s will need to navigate going forward, and echoes the stories shared by the seven young people in this series.

Through this project, Leap graduates share the challenges of family life, identifying conflict in the home as something that they have had to endure with little option of escape. There is collective agreement that financial uncertainty is a huge worry for young people, with many unsure how they will be able to pay accommodation, tuition fees or course costs when in low paid employment or on furlough.

We are losing our ability to empathise with the younger generation during this time. remember me is an opportunity to counter that trend. I invite creative sectors, community leaders, businesses and institutions to engage with these seven stories and consider how you and your organisation can give time and expertise to elevate the next generation.

How the project came to be?

I am an admirer of Alicia Canter’s work and am grateful for her editorial experience and journalism expertise in helping to bring these stories to life. Each image was taken in either the home borough of each young person or a London location of significance to that individual. So, who are the seven young people involved in this project and what are their stories?

Junior, 19. Creative mind living near Archway, North London

Junior completed one of Leap’s community programmes back in 2017 and has remained in close contact with us. He is a young talent in photography, videography and production and is working on producing feature film.

“2020 has been a year of reflection and growth. The first three months of lockdown my mind became a battlefield. I began to question my past achievements, who I am as a person, who I want to be in life and how I was going to move forward.”

Haroun, 17. Entrepreneur from West London

Haroun is a huge personality amongst our youth ambassadors’ group. During lockdown, he set up his second business; a talent management agency. He is currently pitching record deals and brand sponsorship with the UK’s leading music companies.

“I was 13 when I set up my first business, DeluxeTreasure, and during the peak of the lockdown I set up Future Talent Management; a talent agency for young artists, actors and models. This new venture I am most proud of because I have developed new skills, like video production and how to generate income for business.”

Dionne, 20. Musician, youth worker and mental health advocate from East London

Dionne is a qualified young trainer and delivers Leap’s conflict management frameworks to young people across London. Outside of Leap, she is a musician and is outspoken on the issue of mental health and its impact on young people.

“I  found lockdown and the whole of 2020 a harsh reality. At times I have felt alone. I have found living at home, conflict with my family and financial uncertainty at times overwhelming. At the height of the pandemic and in recent months, the experience has shown me what is really important in life. I am learning to be more considerate of others’ feelings, to be more reflective and I am hopeful about my future.”

Million, 19. First year university student from Stockwell, South London

Million is passionate about youth work and being a positive influence on her peers and young people from her community. She is also a first-year student from the University of Northampton, studying Childhood and Youth studies.

“I want to be the person I needed when I was younger. I want to support young people, maybe even open up my own youth club or business one day. I want to be a voice around my area on the issues that young people face. I want to make a difference and am driven to fulfil that goal.”

Áine, 24. An advocate for young people in care, currently living in West London

“I am 24 years old and although this year wasn’t how I planned, I believe I still have a lot to contribute. Opportunities through Leap and other charities have increased belief in myself. I am confident that my voice and experience can positively affect the lives of other young people growing up in the care system. That is what I am committed to doing as I move into 2021.”

Peter, 20. A talented musician and aspiring performer from South Tottenham

Music has been Peter’s refuge during this pandemic. He has written and performed on BBC 1Xtra’s live stream and, prior to the second lockdown, was performing in The Big House socially distanced performance - The Ballad of Corona V.

“I found refuge in writing music and performing online. Through music I was able to articulate my thoughts and process my emotions through song. Themes explored friendship, finding purpose in uncertain times and the impact of Covid on me and my community. One highlight from lockdown was when DJ Target invited me to freestyle on BBC 1Xtra’s Instagram live show. The feedback was incredible and has helped me to keep focused and motivated during difficult times.”

Sherif, 19. Interested in working in financial services. Home for Sherif is the London Borough of Redbridge and Ilford

When the pandemic is over, Sherif has dreams of wearing a suit and working in the financial sector in Canary Wharf.

“The greatest conflict I have experienced this year is linking my personal aspirations with my reality. I am doing all I can to get into work but am finding all my efforts fall flat. I have to keep reminding myself that I have to be persistent, but it is hard.”

Media headlines, research papers and government officials in recent weeks are describing young people aged 16 – 25 years as the “lost generation”, but that need not be the case. These seven young people know the futures they want to create and the change they want to see. To engage more with these stories, follow our Instagram, @leap_cc.

If you would like to feature the full case study of a young person, or provide a training opportunity for a young people featured in this campaign, please contact Alicia at communications@leapcc.org.uk