Young Citizen: One year on, Newbury Park teenager selected for UK’s first degree in ‘social change’ is thriving

PUBLISHED: 13:00 02 October 2020

A number of apprentices at Queen Mary University - including Ilford resident Adarsh Ramchurn - recently organised a charity auction which has raised around £1600. Picture: Adarsh Ramchum

A number of apprentices at Queen Mary University - including Ilford resident Adarsh Ramchurn - recently organised a charity auction which has raised around £1600. Picture: Adarsh Ramchum


Things have a habit of working out how they’re supposed to. That’s certainly the view of Newbury Park teen Adarsh Ramchurn, who, one year ago, was selected for the UK’s first degree in “social change” after applying by chance.

A year on, the 19-year-old spoke to the Recorder about how his date with “destiny” was going.

“I’m now entering the second year of my apprenticeship and am getting more responsibility,” he said. “I’m really enjoying it, I like learning by doing.”

He almost didn’t go down this route. A former student at the Isaac Newton Academy, Adarsh intended to study economics at Queen Mary University.

When researching this degree, he stumbled across the apprenticeship on the university’s website.

After applying on a whim, Adarsh secured the final place.

Adarsh is an apprentice at Queen Mary University who splits his time between its campus and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), the charity that employs him for the duration of his studies.

The idea behind the apprenticeship is to create a new generation of charity leaders.

What it didn’t account for, however, was the emergence of a global pandemic which would seriously harm the industry that lies at the heart of the programme.

Adarsh wasn’t expecting this either, nor were his fellow apprentices. But as coronavirus took hold, he found himself on furlough.

Wanting to stay active, the group set about organising a charity auction, with prizes including a signed copy of The Life Trilogy by David Attenborough, signed Anthony Joshua gloves and a ten-minute Zoom call with explorer Ed Stafford.

Adarsh explains how the auction — which ran from September 10-18 — came about: “It was initially the idea of the apprenticeship team at the university as so many of us were on furlough and they didn’t want us to do nothing.

“We have certain standards to meet to pass the apprenticeship, and this presented a good chance to make sure we do that. It’s the first time any of us have done anything like this, but as time went on, they gave us more autonomy to organise things.”

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The original idea was to split the proceeds between the respective charities of the 13 apprentices, alongside three smaller organisations — Khulisa, Box-up Crime and Journey to Justice.

However, with more than £1,600 raised, Adarsh says they may be revising this plan: “We’re still in discussions about how best to divide the money. The charities we all work for are bigger and potentially more financially stable, so we may end up just splitting the proceeds between three local, smaller charities.

“We haven’t decided yet. We’re still in the process of getting the prizes to the winners.”

Sarah Bryan, a development manager at the university’s school of business and management, explained how coronavirus impacted Adarsh: “At the start of pandemic, we were faced with the dilemma of apprentices being furloughed and potentially having an enforced break in their apprenticeship.

“We came up with the idea of the charity auction to enable the continuation of work-based learning, as well as giving back to the charity sector who have been so badly impacted by Covid-19.”

Adarsh himself returned from furlough in July, enriched by the experience of organising such a successful event less than a year into his apprenticeship.

Though only into the second of a four year programme, the 19-year-old is already visualising the future.

“I have a lot of passions that I want to pursue, particularly in Redbridge,” he said.

“I’ve noticed it change. I know the virus is part of that, but it really isn’t the same. When I walked through Ilford town centre recently it felt almost apocalyptic.”

These sentiments are very similar to those expressed by Adarsh this time last year, just after he had been announced as the Recorder/Rotary Young Citizen Nominee.

His hope then was that “Ilford becomes better in terms of the way we treat each other”.

This wish hasn’t changed; if anything, the last year has made it stronger: “The apprenticeship been such a good training ground. I feel like once I finish it, I’ll be able to do whatever I want.”

His progression hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Adarsh excitedly reveals that his old school have asked him to become a governor, meaning he’ll be invited back to teach workshops.

Being viewed as a positive example is hugely “flattering”, says the teen, who intends to take his responsibilities seriously.

All in all, not a bad year for someone who applied for the apprenticeship by chance.

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