Shanese Youngs

Talking about

Since she started her Leeds journey aged just 15, Shanese Youngs’ university experience has been framed by the support that you, our incredible community of alumni and supporters, have offered at every turn. 

“I grew up quite close to campus, living with my mum and younger sister, but while I didn’t need to travel far to get here, my journey to Leeds was no less long. 

Before me, no one in my family had considered going to university. They didn't understand why I would want to do that, rather than get a full-time job. 

No one in my family had ever written a personal statement or been to an open day, so unlike many of my peers, I had to learn everything for myself. And as Leeds was my local university, I took up every opportunity they offered. First, there was the Thomas Transition Programme during my GCSE year, then Reach for Excellence which I did alongside my A-Levels – and finally Access to Leeds. 

Each of these helped me to map out what I wanted to do in the future and gave me an idea of what to expect from the university application process. They gave me the confidence to believe that I could really go to university – and be successful. By completing Access to Leeds, I was also offered a place on lower than standard grades, which took some of the pressure off during my A-Levels. 

While I was now confident I could get into Leeds, I was worried that I would have to give up my aspirations because I simply couldn’t afford it. My mum works part time and has my sister to look after, so I knew I couldn’t rely on my family for financial support. This all changed when I found out that I would be eligible for a scholarship. This took a massive weight off my mind and my scholarship allowed me to take up my place at Leeds with a sense of financial security that has influenced every part of my experience.

Thanks to my scholarship, I was able to join the Plus Programme – a network of support for students from backgrounds that are under-represented in higher education. They send weekly emails with invitations to social events, skills workshops and talks to help us feel at home, and show us every opportunity that the University offers. Though I don’t attend all of them, it’s great to know they’re there and that someone cares about me and my success. 

One scheme I really benefited from was aimed at helping students from less advantaged backgrounds understand what it takes to get a graduate job and get ahead with our applications. It offered lots of resources on how to write CVs and prepare for the interviews and online tests involved in securing internships and work placements.

I was paired with a mentor who helped me prepare for an internship assessment centre by doing a mock interview with me. During our session I kept stopping and saying: “I can’t do this” and my mentor was so patient and encouraging. They gave me the confidence that I had the answers in me and just needed to believe in myself. Without this support, I don’t think I would have made it onto my summer internship at the National Audit Office - but I did!

At the end of the internship I was offered a place on the company’s three-year graduate scheme – the kind of opportunity which no one in my family has ever had. It feels a bit dramatic to say it, but it feels like a ‘real rags to riches’ story to get onto a scheme like that. 

All of this is thanks to the support of alumni and donors like you, who have helped from when I was just 15 and university felt like a distant dream. Every step of my Leeds journey you have helped me turn my hard work into success. Thank you so much.”

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