Natalia Morgan, one of this year’s graduates from the Advocacy Academy that offers young people from South London intensive training in campaigning, tells the Blog what the Academy taught her.
It’s February. I’ve just left my interview and I tell myself: that’s it. I’m not going to get into Advocacy Academy (and I really wanted to). But a couple months later and I’m on the summer residential. Truthfully, at first, I felt out of place. Like I had missed the tip to study Activism 101 before I arrived.
But after adjusting, I started to get the conversations about intersectionality and political blackness and pronouns. The Advocacy Academy was and is a process of unlearning and learning through fresh eyes. And although it was alien to me at first, I’ve come out of it a better person.
Over the course of six months I went on several residentials and attended Friday gatherings covering different topics, trying different cuisines, and got to visit the theatre. I’ve been to a talk with the journalist Sir Trevor McDonald and had him sign my name badge (which for an aspiring journalist is beyond amazing!).
From being live on Sky News – talking about the rise of school exclusions and the need for compassionate education – to seeing former First Lady Michelle Obama at the Southbank centre, Advocacy has given me such a wealth of experiences that I could not have imagined at the start of 2018.
I’ve laughed till my belly hurts, performed a full choreography and marched in protest with friends who, six months ago were complete strangers. I’ve learnt history and skills that were never taught in a classroom. I’ve been mentored by people who listen without judgement and give everything to young people like me.
Advocacy Academy is like an extended family. We show up for each other, no matter what. It’s about more than campaigning and protesting.
It saw me, a 17-year-old girl from South London, through a question as simple as: What makes you angry?
The Academy taught me that if you’re angry about something, if you think something’s not okay – then you’ve got to do more than just complain.
And I did. I worked my ass off co-creating a campaign for my generation and the generations to come. And the Academy gave me the platform to make that possible.
Power: the ability to act.
For me, it is the Advocacy Academy.
The fellowship taught me that “activist” is a title you earn. It’s is more than being #Woke , you actually have to be willing to give your all for a cause, because if you don’t, who will?
Education should help young people with complex lives achieve their potential, not exacerbate their disadvantage
Natalia’s cause was #NoLostCauses. It is the first youth-led campaign fighting for a more compassionate education system:
We know from experience that the current approach to behaviour is failing pupils and wasting potential. We demand this outdated system is replaced by one rooted in pastoral care rather than punishment, counsellors rather than criminalising, and which addresses root causes rather than symptoms. We are fighting skyrocketing rates of isolation, exclusion, off-rolling, and the school-to-prison pipeline which sees two thirds of incarcerated people with experience of exclusion as students.
We demand better, more loving alternatives that support and understand students living in challenging circumstances.
This includes a roll-out of restorative and therapeutic practices in schools; more funding for teaching assistants, mental health specialists and SEN (special educational needs) support staff who are on the frontline; better training for all staff; and proper resourcing of alternative provision like PRUs (pupil referral units). Education should help young people with complex lives achieve their potential, not exacerbate their disadvantage.