Welcome to my crowdfund fundraising campaign
My name is Renell Harding, and I am a History graduate from Swansea University born and raised in London. Over the summer, I had successfully applied for, accepted and confirmed a place at the University of Law (London Bloomsbury) to study the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) beginning in September 2019. The GDL is a one-year law conversion course that is commonly studied by non-law students who want to pursue a career in law. For non-law students such as myself, the GDL is the first step in the process of becoming either a solicitor or a barrister. I am studying the GDL because I am an aspiring commercial solicitor.
However, the GDL is not a master’s degree, meaning I can’t apply for the postgraduate degree student loan (worth £10,600) from the Student Loans Company. I have applied for a few scholarships a few months ago e.g. the Lord Blunkett Widening Access Awards and Set Up for Success scholarships, which are both offered by the University of Law. However, as of now I have not been successful with applying for the scholarships from the University of Law. Therefore, I have no choice but to crowdfund £18,300 to cover the tuition fees and living costs for the upcoming academic year to study the GDL.
I have until August 31st to crowdfund the whole £18,300, and If I am unsuccessful then I will have no choice but to withdraw from studying the GDL. Having completed studying the GDL, I will be able to move on to the next stage in the process of becoming a solicitor, studying the Legal Practice Course (LPC). Also, being able to study and complete the GDL will allow me to apply for paralegal jobs, which will help me fund the LPC with LLM (alongside the postgraduate degree loan) if I do not secure a law training contract with a law firm that covers the costs of the LPC for their trainees, in the next recruitment cycle. Therefore, I need YOUR help to help me crowdfund £18,300. You can help me by donating to my page where all donations big or small, will be greatly appreciated and by also sharing my campaign on your social media platforms and sharing it amongst your networks.
Below is my story to date, why I am interested in a career in Law, a summary of my education and achievements and the breakdown of all the costs in a budget sheet.
Picture above: A screenshot of an email from the University of Law confirming my place to study the GDL at their London Bloomsbury campus.
The story so far…
I was born in 1998 in North-West London, to a Bajan (Barbados) father and a half British-half Greek-Cypriot mother. Very soon after my birth, I had fluid on the brain from an accident and was treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital. From this, life had already put in front of me my first obstacle, an obstacle that I will live with forever, an obstacle that I have had to continuously overcome the challenges this obstacle brings (and for the rest of my life); it would later be discovered through a diagnosis (before I went to nursery) that I had autism along with speech and language difficulties. Due to my learning difficulties and autism, I was placed in special nursery for children with similar issues, and similarly in primary school, I was placed in a separate class, full of kids with similar difficulties to me throughout my entire time at primary school. This was all since after doing written, speaking, listening and numeracy tests, I deemed to be behind my peers, as well as not being able to socialise and form friendships in the same way as my peers. In secondary school, I would get taken out of class twice a week to receive extra help and see a speech therapist and since my GCSEs, I have received extra time for my exams. To this day, both my learning difficulties and autism, while not as noticeable in comparison to when I was a child, still affects me academically and socially
Picture above: When I was a toddler!!
Life at home:
I grew up and lived in the borough of Brent, which is known to be a deprived borough that is situated in North-West London. From my earliest childhood memories (and all the way to my late teenage years), life at home had always been toxic and stressful. I grew up in a low-income household and in a broken home. My father was consistently very abusive verbally and physically to my mum, leading to their split in 2007, when I was aged 9. With my father not being the most supportive father, my mum would find it very difficult to cope financially raising my younger sister (she is 18 months younger than me) and myself, as she would work different jobs, sometimes two jobs at a time to provide for me and my sister.
The first turning point in my life…
In May 2011, when I was 13 years old and in year 8 of secondary school, my mum, my sister and I were evicted from our home and made homeless. We were homeless in the sense that while we moved from a variety of locations, from houses of mum’s friends, to Bed and Breakfasts’ (B&Bs) in far places like West Drayton, we never had a fixed address. At the time, and for the next 5 years, I was very embarrassed of this experience. None of my teachers or friends at school knew that I was homeless. However, my experience of being homeless for 6 months was a life-changing experience for me. Being homeless and seeing my mum struggle greatly financially and mentally, made me realise that life isn’t a joke, and that if I did not want to have to experience being homeless ever again, or be in great financial difficulty when I would be an adult, I had to start taking my education seriously. This realisation lit a fire in my belly (and it’s still on fire) that despite not being academically the smartest due to my learning difficulties, that I was going to give my all to my education, in order to give myself a fighting chance of making something of myself. This newfound attitude I have carried with me ever since.
My Secondary School years; GCSEs and A Level Years:
For seven years (2009-2016), I attended Preston Manor School and Sixth Form, a state school located in Wembley, in the London Borough of Brent. I look back fondly on the seven years I had at Preston Manor School and I still frequently visit since leaving in 2016. Whenever I go back, it’s always to give talks to students about life at university, my overall journey to date or about the Amos Bursary. I also visit to catch up with the teachers that showed faith and supported me, especially the head of my year group, Mr Stephen Wallman, the first person outside of my immediate family to show any genuine faith in me. At Preston Manor, I was known for being mainly reserved as I wasn’t the most popular or the loudest but being a respected and hard-working student. While there was still issues at home, school was like my escape (especially from year 10 onward). I would immerse myself in school as much as possible, such as being a prefect and, giving my studies my all since year 9 after my experience of being homeless. Looking back, I would say some of the foundations of who I am as a person was formed during my years at Preston Manor School. For my GCSEs I achieved 2As 5Bs and 2Cs.
In my two-years doing my A Levels, after a rough year 12 (for my AS levels I got C in History, D in Government & Politics and Es in Maths and Physics), I finished year 13 with an A* in History and a C in Government and Politics. To this day I still cherish the A* I achieved for my History A level because it was the one and only time, I ever achieved a A* grade in any subject. Furthermore, being able to secure a place at university was a massive achievement for me, as I was the only person in my immediate family to do so, but also because I proved to myself that I was truly academically able despite the learning difficulties that I have.
The second turning point in my life…
In February 2015, I experienced my second life-changing experience (a positive and permanent experience), when I became a scholar of the Amos Bursary. The Bursary has gifted boys of African and Caribbean origin, to realise their potential academically and professionally. The Amos Bursary has provided me with countless opportunities. 10 boys from the Amos Bursary including myself did the New York Experience Study Tour for four weeks in August 2016. During my time in New York, my Amos Bursary colleagues, and I pitched a campaign idea on suicide awareness to advertising company McCann and worked at Linklaters LLP in the Capital Markets team. Also, I attended a town hall meeting Barack Obama had in April 2016 before the EU referendum with some of my Amos Bursary brothers. In 2018 I was the student lead for the 2018 cohort. However most importantly, the Amos Bursary introduced me to like-minded, hard-working, intelligent black boys that I truly consider them all as my brothers, as my second family. The Amos Bursary has changed my life ever since joining and without it, I would not be where I am today, I would not be the person I am today. Since 2018, I have started to give back to the Amos Bursary, through being the 2018 student lead for the 2018 cohort, to promoting the Amos Bursary at schools and career fairs by doing talks and sitting on Q/A panels.
Pictures from starting with the top: Myself and a few of my fellow Amos Bursary brothers after the first day of our internships in New York in 2016. Myself, the 2018 Amos Bursary cohort and Bianca Miller at the Amos Bursary King’s College Conference 2018. The Amos Bursary Gala Dinner 2019 and my Amos Bursary brothers and I after completing the Aleto Foundation Leadership Programme.
My three years at Swansea University:
My university experience was mixed. On one hand I had grown a lot as a person and had the honour of being president of the African and Caribbean Society (ACS) in my second year. On the other hand, university was often a challenging experience for me, living so far away from home. At one point in my first year of university, I had considered quitting university to move back to London, but I was encouraged by my mentors to stay at Swansea as I realised that it’s only outside your comfort zone you truly grow. My passion for weight training in the gym (I have been weight training for 3 years and 10 months consistently since October 2015, usually six days a week) and the mental attributes I have picked from weight training e.g. resilience and perseverance, also helped me to mentally cope with the challenges of studying at university and living away from home. In the end, I finished my History degree and graduated with an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) in History (BA Hons).
*Picture on the right and picture on the left: My graduation certificate and a picture of myself, a few friends and gym regulars at my local gym after a tough deadlift and lower back workout. One of the main reasons why I love weight-training, is because it brings people from all different backgrounds, of all different sizes and shapes to come together and workout together.
Why I am interested in a career in Law and what I plan to do when I do become a commercial solicitor
My journey of pursuing a career in Law can be traced back to a law workshop I attended at my secondary school. Since then, my interest about Law gradually grew with every internship/work experience placement I did. I completed internships at Linklaters LLP (New York 2016), Charles Russell Speechlys LLP (August 2017), Northridge Law LLP (June-July 2018), European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (July 2018-September 2018) and O’Neal Webster (UK) LLP (July 2018). Overtime through doing each internship, I realised having a career in Commercial Law as a solicitor can be for me, as I enjoyed using commercial awareness, alongside my other skills to solve legal and commercial issues within a team. Each internship I did has exposed me to different practice areas of commercial law, such as dispute resolution, sports law, capital markets, trusts/wills and private client work. Each internship I did fuelled my belief that I can, and I WILL become a commercial lawyer no matter how long it takes. Also, since the spring of 2017, I have attended numerous open and insight days at many law firms, most of them organised by law firms in partnership with Aspiring Solicitors, an organisation that aims to improve diversity with the legal sector. I would always have to travel from Swansea to London during my semesters at university to attend these events, as I simply was invested in learning more about commercial law. The following are a list of law firms I have attended their open/insight days:
Simmons & Simmons
Clyde & Co (TargetJobs ‘City Law for Ethnic Minorities Event’ 2018)
Farrer & Co
Bird & Bird
Charles Russell Speechlys LLP
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC) (accepted to RPC’s own open day)
Furthermore, when I do become a commercial solicitor, I plan to use my platform to go to secondary schools to host workshops on how commercial law is really like. This is so that secondary school students can get a real flavour for what commercial law is like, long before they decide if they want to pursue a career in commercial law or not.
Preston Manor School and Sixth Form (2009-2016):
GCSEs: 2As, 5Bs, 2Cs
A Levels: History: grade A*, Government & Politics: grade C
Swansea University (2016-2019):
Upper Second Class (2:1) award for History (BA Hons)
Achievements/Awards/Scholarships/Positions of responsibility held:
February 2015- present Scholar (2015-2019), Year 12 Student Lead and alumni (2019-present), Amos Bursary, London
July 10th, -July 12th2018 2018 Delegate, Aleto Foundation Leadership Programme
May 2017- May 2018 President, African and Caribbean Society (ACS), Swansea University
June 29th, 2017 Winner, Professional and Personal Development Award, Amos Bursary 2017 gala dinner
March 15th-April 27th, 2017 Winner, First Year Plus Programme, Aspiring Solicitors
- The programme consisted of the winners having the opportunity to attend four insight days at Travers Smith (28th March 2017), TLT solicitors (30th March 2017), Dechert LLP (25th April 2017) and Simmons & Simmons (27th April 2017).
December 2016 Winner, Godi Panzout Award, Preston Manor School
Picture below: Aleto Foundation celebration event 2019.
As you can see throughout my story, my achievements and my consistent interest in pursuing a career in commercial law, I am a young man that refuses to let obstacles get in the way of what I want to achieve. With your help and generosity by donating to my crowdfund page and sharing my crowdfund campaign on your social media platforms, you can help me overcome this financial obstacle that is standing in my way of studying the GDL, allowing me to continue pursuing my ambition of becoming a commercial solicitor!
£5 donations: term updates
£20 donations: A detailed workout routine that I use, that helps build muscle and improves strength
video filming credit: Tyreese Hines