A Sheffield teacher has launched a club to give young people the belief, real world experience and contacts to succeed in their chosen career.
Members of the Aspirers Society will get to hear from inspirational speakers who have risen to the top in their fields, says its founder Hopeton Bailey.
They will also be invited to visit different workplaces, from law firms to cutting-edge factories, to help them decide if that is the profession for them.
And Mr Bailey plans to organise trips to different universities, giving students a taste of campus life and an insight into what they need to do to land a place there.
As well as equipping secondary school pupils with all the tools needed for a fruitful career, he hopes this will convince them they can achieve whatever they set their sights on if they really knuckle down and commit to their studies.
“I don’t just want to talk to these students about what they need to do, I want them to hear first-hand from people who've been in their position and worked hard to get where they are today,” said Mr Bailey.
“When these students see people who’ve gone through all the difficulties they face and forged successful careers for themselves, hopefully that will give them the belief they can do the same.
“I want to show them that whatever they want to be they can be if they focus on achieving their goals.”
Mr Bailey, who teaches maths at a Sheffield secondary school and gives after-school lessons at Burngreave Vestry Hall, knows from personal experience how easy it can be for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to grow disillusioned and give up on themselves without the right support.
Growing up in Jamaica, he was one of eight siblings and his parents could not always afford the bus fares to send them all to school.
Despite starting secondary school as an academic high-flyer, he says his prospects nearly suffered a fatal blow when he missed an exam and was dropped into a lower stream.
“When that happened, my life changed for the worse. I ended up struggling to find my way again, and it was only thanks to some very strong teachers and members of the community that I was able to get back on track,” he said.
Mr Bailey went on to qualify as a teacher in Jamaica before coming to the UK in 2006 and completing a science degree and a masters in education.
As well as attending monthly talks and visits, he says members of the new not-for-profit society will be able to contact him whenever they need for careers advice or help with their studies – all for a monthly subscription of £15.
Only about a dozen students have so far signed up but he hopes to expand the membership.
The first meeting took place last month, with a talk by Ali Hussain, a Firth Park Academy old boy who now runs his own law firm.
The second is scheduled for Saturday, January 26, at 1.30pm, at Burngreave Vestry Hall, on Burngreave Road, with guest speakers to be confirmed.
Rashid Elmi, a 12-year-old living in Burngreave and studying at Parkwood Academy, is one of the society’s founder members and its vice-president.
After attending the talk by Mr Hussain, the aspiring lawyer was able to secure work experience at his practice.
Rashid said: “The society’s a great opportunity to help us think about our futures and focus on how we’re going to get there because it might seem like a long way off but it’s going to come around very quickly.
“Having someone like Mr Bailey to guide us is brilliant and I’m really excited about the chance to do work experience at a law firm.”
Rashid’s mum Zahra Abdullahi said: “We imagine our world based on the people and places we see, and this is a great way of opening a window into different worlds for young people like Rashid.”
For more information about the Aspirers Society, call Hopeton Bailey on 0774 7334 064 or email email@example.com.