If it wasn’t for my foster parents and social worker I wouldn’t be where I am today
Leah Glenday is the first pupil from her school and the first young person in foster care from the London Borough of Haringey to study at the University of Cambridge. She has also inspired her younger sister, Kia, to pursue big ambitions of her own. We spoke to them both about their academic goals and achievements.
How did it feel to be the first pupil from your school to reach Cambridge and also the first child in foster care from Haringey to attend university?
I feel a mix of emotions. I am happy and grateful to have been able to achieve such an amazing accomplishment and hope that this will inspire others to push themselves to go for these opportunities, as the sky is our limit if you have the right dedication and self-motivation for it.
However, this fact also upsets me as there has been hundreds of children at West Hatch and in the system at Haringey who should have already been able to achieve this. I struggle to understand why it has taken so long and hope that one day I can help encourage and assist students in their application to any university they wish to go to.
When did you feel that you could achieve your ambition to study law at Cambridge?
There was never a moment I truly believed I would be able to attend Cambridge as I have never seen anyone from my background go to such a prestigious university. Despite my foster parents and social worker believing in me and telling me on a regular basis that I could do it, I always had my doubts. When I received my confirmation email that I got in I was shocked and speechless, even though I worked so hard for many years and always dreamed about going, I didn’t think I would ever get the chance. It wasn’t till my first term here where I realised it doesn’t matter who I am or what I’ve gone through, I could achieve just as much as anyone else.
Who were the key people who helped you reach your goal?
If it wasn’t for my foster parents and social worker I wouldn’t be where I am today. Their love and support helped me get through many barriers and open my eyes to all the opportunities I had in front of me. They always made sure I got all the help I could in terms of tuition, access to technology and welfare support throughout my time in foster care and after I left.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in law?
Since a young age I have been interested in having a career in law as I knew it was down to the work of many solicitors and barristers that put me into the system. My passion for law strengthened when my foster parents had to fight in court for my younger siblings to be put in a placement with my foster family and I, and not up for adoption. If it wasn’t for the barrister who helped advocate for my family, and read my letters out in court, I wouldn’t have been blessed with the happy family I have today. After this I knew I wanted a career in law as I wanted to give a voice to other children out there and fight for the other children who are in the same situation as I was.
How have you helped or encouraged Kia in her ambitions?
I would like to be able to take credit for inspiring and motivating Kia in her ambitions but then I would be lying. She has always been the most hard-working and driven individual I have ever come across and is unstoppable once she has her mind set on something. I believe I have helped Kia by highlighting the importance of opportunities she should take in order to widen her skillset and gain better knowledge on her ambitions. I am always there to advise her when she has any questions, but she is a very independent girl.
How do you feel fostering has affected your ambition and your ability to achieve your goals at school?
My drive and passion for my ambitions stemmed from being put into the fostering system. It opened my eyes to what I wanted to achieve in life. I benefited a lot from being in care as it gave me access to things I could have only dreamed of if I had stayed with my biological parents. I was given multiple tutors to help with my studies, financial support to attend clubs such as gymnastics and performing arts and to have the support from so many people.
Most importantly I was given the chance to be a part of a loving family who are there for me no matter what and allowed me and my siblings to stay together and grow up with one another. Due to fostering I was able to live a ‘normal’ life and have the opportunity to pursue my dreams, which I never would have had the chance to if I wasn’t put with my foster family.
How did you feel when you found out Leah would be studying law at Cambridge?
I was extremely happy and excited for her. I knew she had been working so hard, doing absolutely everything she could to make herself worth the opportunity.
Did you realise Leah had made history in terms of being a trailblazer for her school and her borough?
Yes, and I am very proud. It is such a big achievement and I hope that it encourages other young children in care to push themselves to do just as well.
I understand you want to study medicine at Oxbridge, where did that ambition come from?
Leah is my sister, but she is also my role model. She is the person I look up to and learn from. I am inspired to succeed the way she has, despite the struggles we have both faced in the past.
Has her experience of Cambridge given you a better insight into university life at a prestigious university?
Leah tells me all about her life at Cambridge. This way I am aware of all the great things she experiences every day. I have a better understanding of how university works and the hard work it requires which motivates me to do well in school. From seeing what Leah is able to do and achieve, has made me more excited for my future at university.