EVERYDAY HEROES

Cathy Bereznicki

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Careers advisers are always on the lookout for creative ways to introduce young black people to successful adults who will inspire them to continue to study and be ambitious. Many existing role models are famous or in the public eye, often in stereotyped careers. So when Frances Mensah Williams' teenage daughter Seena asked "mum, what careers are out there for young black people?" it sparked a movement which started with Frances identifying sixteen high achieving individuals and asking each of them seven questions about their careers. The interviewees came from diverse sectors including business, the arts, medicine and law. Everyday heroes are just that, people we could meet anywhere but with that 'ability to move us; to make us see how we too can be bigger and better ... than we thought we could'. Frances documented their stories and designed a series of exercises for young people. Her robust and business-like book Everyday Heroes - Learning

audience talked about its significance and usability. It convinced me that if local areas adopted the methodology, they would release a powerful and sustainable community/education collaboration to find stories of everyday heroes, raise aspirations and generate its own support systems.

led to an idea which is much more than the sum of its parts. What is more, the sum and parts are on tap to all careers advisers and teachers. Here is a way of showing positive stories about careers to young people (and adults, why not?) who may be wondering futures. about their

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hat I'm about to tell you is an account of how an 'over the dinner table' conversation

from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals, outlines what could
easily be adapted to become an accessible, locally driven framework for raising aspirations in young people. The content can be generated by young people themselves, ensuring its authenticity and vitality. I showed the book to a group of young black people aged 17-25 with whom I'm currently working. They liked the idea, seeing how it could inspire them. Ashley skimmed through the book, picked out a hero and summarised his journey in a minute. "Make it into a series of radio programmes and pod casts", they suggested. The book was launched in November at SOAS(School of Oriental and African Studies) at one of the most exciting and inspiring events I have attended. The eminent panel (including a deputy headteacher from a London school) and

My top career tip from Everyday Heroes? Toyin Dania: "Be curious, persistent, ambitious and compassionate. Remain up-to-date with the world and people around you. Be focused, but remember ... find time to play, relax and laugh".

Everyday Heroes: Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals
by Frances Mensah Williams, ISBN: 978-0-9569175-0-8 SKN Publishing 2011, £12.99 www.everyday-heroes.co.uk

Cathy Bereznicki is a freelance associate with Performing Arts Labs (www.pallabs.org) working with artists, STEM practitioners, teachers and young people. She worked in career guidance for 26 years and was the first Chief Executive of the Institute of Careers Guidance in the 1990s.

Career Guidance

Today / Issue 20.1 / February

2012