Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


KCL Students Shortlisted in Social Mobility Awards

Social Mobility Awards

Roar spoke with the three KCL students recognised in the upReach Student Social Mobility Awards earlier this month.

In 2018, upReach, an organisation helping undergraduates from less-advantaged backgrounds to secure and sustain good graduate jobs, created the Student Social Mobility Awards to celebrate “…students who have demonstrated great resilience, determination, or initiative, or boosted their employability in innovative ways. We aim to showcase up-and-coming talent and identify those rising stars to watch in the years to come.”

This year, the Awards took place in the beginning of September in the House of Lords and recognised the achievements of three KCL students.

To recognise the remarkable achievement of Naima Ali (this year’s Champion of Social Mobility), Nafeesa Bi, and Anabelle Parton-Blades, three KCL students who made the judging panel’s final shortlist, Roar spoke with them to learn more about their journey through a very difficult year for students, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roar: Can you please elaborate a bit on what the Student Social Mobility Awards are?

Naima: The Student Social Mobility Awards are awarded by upReach, a charitable organisation that helps disadvantaged students by providing application support, connections to employers and more career development. The Awards Ceremony, which is held at the House of Lords, celebrates students from lower socio-economic backgrounds who have worked to boost the employability of not just themselves, but also of others.

Nafeesa: The Social Mobility Awards recognise the resilience and perseverance individuals have when aspiring for certain goals, whether this be personal or work-related. The awards highlight that although people from different socio-economic demographics may have different opportunities, they still manage to work through hurdles and challenges that may arise.

Anabelle: From upReach’s website: “upReach decided to create the Student Social Mobility Awards in 2018 as a way of recognising and showcasing the enormous talent that exists across the UK, and as a reminder of the vast unrealised potential of so many with social mobility in the UK still worse than in most other OECD countries.”

R: What did your journey towards becoming a Student Social Mobility Award shortlistee entail?

NA: I joined as an upReach Associate at the start of the academic year. Through their weekly announcements, I was aware of the Student Social Mobility Awards. It was then to my surprise that my Programme Coordinator, Ella Shaxson, had nominated me for an award! A few weeks later, I found out that I had been shortlisted and invited to the Awards Ceremony at the House of Lords. 

NB: My journey entailed a lot of resilience and self-motivating. This was particularly difficult coming from a low socio-economic demographic which meant I didn’t have many family members or friends to guide me.

Fortunately, I was able to discover organisations such as upReach which helped provide me with resources and tools. This consequently led to me being accepted onto a graduate scheme at Deloitte. So, although there were many hurdles along the way, I was fortunate to have a mentor from Upreach.

A: I am the first in my family to get A-Levels and go to university. There are a lot of roles and career paths I wasn’t aware of growing up due to lack of exposure from friends and family.

R: How does one become eligible for the award?

NA: As part of the ‘Awards for Undergraduates’, the only eligibility criteria is that the nominee must be an undergraduate student. 

NB: The awards are given to students who have made achievements whilst simultaneously recognising the difference these students make to improving social mobility.

A: Be part of the social mobility charity, upReach, and achieve high performance of social mobility – either commitment to one’s own progression or supporting others.

R: What does becoming a shortlistee mean to you and why? What significance does it hold for you personally?

NA: Becoming a shortlistee came as a huge shock to me, mostly because I didn’t even expect to be a nominee. However, to have received recognition for my work and strive towards increasing social mobility feels incredibly rewarding.

As someone who is state-school educated, an ethnic minority and a first-generation student, my experiences of professional careers like the legal field were limited. I didn’t have the contacts or opportunities laid out in front of me, so I had to actively search for them.

Through this recognition I have received, I feel empowered and motivated to keep doing what I’m doing to help others to not only accomplish their dreams, but also recognise that they can dream big – no matter their background. 

NB: Being a shortlistee means a great deal to me as it really signifies my resilience and perseverance to be in the position I am today. This recognises my achievements despite having less opportunities and still breaking these barriers.

I want to help people who are in similar positions to me. I aim to work closely with my former sixth form and its students to provide mentorship. I feel like, by having this award, it will show the students that hard work really does pay off. I want to be able to share this experience and provide insight and encouragement to students who may not feel that their dreams are possible.

A: Although the outcomes of the efforts I have put in are important in setting me up for a secure future, it’s a very nice recognition and appreciation of the time and effort I have invested into upReach. I think it is particularly important to me as it reflects how far I have come.

There’s often a disconnect between what other students from a more connected backgrounds perceive as a great achievement. Similarly, my family struggles to understand what I’ve actually achieved as well. The SMA recognises individuals who find it difficult for others to understand their journey.

R: What’s the passion/project/work that earned you your position as a shortlistee?

NA: Over the last year, I’ve been working on a few projects that work towards increasing social mobility. My greatest passion project has been LawyerUp. LawyerUp is a virtual legal internship which launched in May 2020 in response to cancelled internships due to COVID-19.

Since starting as Head of Operations for our first US programme, I have been promoted to  Global Director – managing our US programme and the launch of our UK programme this year.

We have provided over 1,400 students with insight into 16 legal sectors, led through sessions with award-winning lawyers from leading law firms and barristers chambers. We also equip our interns with the necessary career strategies to help pursue their legal careers. 

I also am President of The 93% Club KCL, which aims to improve the experience of state-school educated university students at KCL. We aim to provide our members with expert panels, industry insights and workshops to up-skill, empower, and network! 

As well as working as a KCL Social Mobility Student Success Ambassador, volunteering for KCL Pro Bono Society’s Legal Outreach Project and tutoring Year 10s from underperforming schools for GCSE Maths and English, the Linklaters Making Links School Challenge I won in 2019 – awarding my college £10,000 – continues to be used to provide work experience for students.

NB: What earned me that position as a shortlistee was my professional service-specific achievements – particularly the resilience it took to secure my graduate job at Deloitte.

A: Through upReach, I have participated in skills workshops, exclusive company insight events, and personal mentoring – just to mention a few. I have used these resources to get into three spring weeks and received offers for two summer internships, where I have accepted one from Bank of America. For this I was nominated by my upReach mentor and made it through 2 rounds of selection panels to be shortlisted.

R: What inspired you to take on that project?

NA: I was inspired to join the executive team of LawyerUp as I knew how difficult it was to access the legal field, especially without the right network and guidance. So, I wanted to help organise a programme which offered all of that and more. 

NB: What inspired me to take on this graduate role was the networking sessions that upReach had with Deloitte. I was then able to better understand different service lines and knew that the business modelling and analytics department with something of interest. Had it not been for the support from upReach, I probably would have had little to no knowledge about the range of service lines offered at Deloitte.

A: My inspiration was setting myself up for a more secure and stable future than I ever saw my family have. It’s also important for me to be a role model to my younger siblings and to show them that they can achieve things they’ve never been able to imagine.

R: How did the pandemic affect your journey to becoming a shortlistee and your work in general?

NA: The pandemic offered opportunities that I otherwise would have never been able to join or find out about. Through working virtually, LawyerUp has been able to accommodate students globally as our programmes are open to all students interested in the US or UK legal systems. 

NB: The pandemic definitely posed many challenges, not only in my academic qualifications, but also when looking for a graduate job. Everything was uncertain and the issues surrounding the pandemic really did take a toll, but it was important to not give up.

To overcome this, I began making daily schedules to keep my mind occupied. As the lockdown approached it did become overwhelming. Therefore, keeping busy and motivated was important. I did this by keeping my long-term goals in mind.

A: It has forced me to think ahead more and to think differently. Normally I would just focus on university, my friends, and activities. But without them I had more time to myself to reflect on my future outside of university life. I guess it was the catalyst for me to start working on my future. From this, I was also able to secure a year abroad at University of Chicago this year.

R: What advice would you give to any future students looking to get involved or who are already involved in social mobility?

NA: I would say to really understand what you are working towards and providing for other individuals. Use that passion to drive your ideas and initiatives. 

NB: Keep asking questions. No question is too silly. And, most importantly, don’t give up on your dreams under any circumstance. A little motto that I live by is that you should always aim for the top, because anything that’s just below is still closer to your dreams than giving up.

It can feel very overwhelming at times, so I would encourage doing things that make you happy – whether this be going to a coffee shop, doing sports, or going to the gym. Always make time for yourself. Being in a better headspace and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals is always a good place to be when trying to reach your goals.

A: Start early to take ownership of your own future, especially if you’re coming from a background with limited exposure or opportunities. Make sure you’re really taking advantage of all the opportunities that are on offer and never be afraid to say yes.

Roar would like to congratulate Naima, Nafeesa, and Anabelle on their amazing achievements, thank them for taking the time to speak with us, and wish them the best of luck! Surely, their successes will serve as inspiration for many future KCL students to come.



Staff writer Salomé Ichay scrutinises French President Macron’s dissolution of the National Assembly after the outcome of the EU elections. Across the media, the...


Staff writer Sophia Chan examines the lack of innovation from US Big Pharma firms and proposes her solutions for how the Biden administration could...

NATO DSG at the headquarters in Brussels NATO DSG at the headquarters in Brussels


Staff Writer Patrick Schnecker interviews NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels. If the YouTube link does not load, click...


President of King’s College London (KCL) Israel Society Aurele Tobelem dissects the demands of the student-led coalition protesting at the pro-Palestine encampments. Editor’s note:...


The last day people can register to vote for the upcoming UK general election will be 18 June – don’t miss out. On 4...


President of King’s College London (KCL) Israel Society Aurele Tobelem dissects the demands of the student-led coalition protesting at the pro-Palestine encampments. Editor’s note:...


Information received under the Freedom of Information Act (2000) shows that ten King’s College London (KCL) locations across London still contain potentially dangerous asbestos....


Staff writer Ewan White discusses a recent peanut allergy study and its subsequent media coverage. Recent research from King’s College London (KCL) has found...


Staff writer, and CAMERA-On-Campus fellow, Patrick Schnecker examines the recent rise in UK antisemitism and questions whether universities are doing enough to put the...