Kayleigh's story

27 March 2023

Kayleigh grew up in Luton and describes herself as having “quite a traditional family upbringing”. Whilst having fond memories of her childhood, Kayleigh also recalls: “we were definitely a working-class family and there were things I couldn’t have that maybe other… some of my friends had and stuff like that. So, kind of, noticed it a little bit, growing up.”

Kayleigh loved music growing up, and despite not feeling drawn to any particular profession or career, Kayleigh recalls being “always just quite creative” and after finishing school, was able to access student loans and grants that enabled her to go to university.

When the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequential lockdowns took place across the UK, like so many other young people across the country, Kayleigh’s worklife was directly impacted. “I’d been working in hospitality and then, obviously, everything shut so I lost my job and I wasn’t working so I moved back in with my parents because I couldn’t afford to rent.”

I was quite lost and a bit like “where am I going from here? Because I’m not working right now, I don’t know how I’m going to get back into work.” So yes, it was a bit of a confusing time, to be honest.

Kayleigh joined UpRising’s Bedford Leadership Programme in 2021, taking part in workshops and sessions designed to build her skills, knowledge and networks, alongside a diverse group of peers also from the region. Following a very challenging year, the peer group itself, and specifically the diversity of the group, was something that immediately had a positive impact on Kayleigh: “I think, first of all, meeting a lot of other people, just in itself, who had similar goals and similar opinions in terms of social action, stuff like that, was really good for me at that time because, obviously, we were all quite disconnected from each other during pandemic… I remember as soon as I logged on for the first week… as soon as I logged on for that, I was like ‘OK, cool. There’s all these other people who are feeling similar and have similar goals for the future’. So I think that was really good.”

I built up a lot of confidence in working with a group and working to achieve a goal, which was really good.

During her time on the programme, Kayleigh was able to access training on how to develop and delivery a campaign to improve an issue she and her peers were passionate about. “There were a few of us who wanted to talk about the issues that women have in the world and in this country”. With support from the UpRising team, Kayleigh’s group were able to explore and develop their ideas for a social action campaign that would improve the lives of young women in the UK. They developed a pitch video for their campaign to enter an UpRising competition, where a panel of judges considered their ideas, motivations and achievement, which Kayleigh’s campaign went on to win. 

This was an important part of Kayleigh’s UpRising journey - having the opportunity to focus on and develop something she was so passionate about meant she was able to grow her confidence, motivation and self-esteem: “I think it definitely did help me to be more positive… it definitely gave me something positive to focus on and it also gave me a bit of structure, as well, I think. I knew that every week, I’d have this session I’d log on for and I’d be talking to people and learning something new”.

This experience also prompted Kayleigh to reflect on her own life and decisions, she explains it confirmed for her her own interest in social justice issues and gave her some direction in which she might like to next develop her career: “it’s made me look at myself more and who are the people that I’m following and who are the people that I’m looking up to”.

It definitely gave me a broader idea of what a leader could be.

Following her time on the programme, Kayleigh applied for a Programme Delivery Trainee role with the UpRising team, where she was trained in the different systems and practices the organisation use to run their programmes. This professional experience supported Kayleigh to further develop her confidence, as well as her workplace skills and insight. “It helped me to branch out a bit from other things that I was doing… that was really nice, to work within the team for a bit like that, try things that I hadn’t really done before in terms of admin and designing things and recruitment and all of that kind of stuff; I hadn’t really done anything like that so that definitely taught me some new skills that I can have on my CV that I didn’t have before”.

The networks that I’ve built and the things that I’ve learned have really helped me to shape who I am now after the programme.

Two years after completing her UpRising programme, Kayleigh still finds being part of the alumni network supportive. She explains the network to feel like an invisible support network, making her feel part of something bigger, having met and heard about many other young people driven to make a positive difference in the world. This feeling of being part of something has significantly improved Kayleigh’s confidence and her motivation to try new things: “I definitely am more confident after both doing the programme, and then working with UpRising. All of that built up my skills and my confidence quite a lot.” 

All the staff are really nice; they’re really easy to talk to and supportive.

After leaving the programme, Kayleigh felt a strong desire to continue being part of positive social action in some way, and began looking for volunteer opportunities near to where she then lived, in Birmingham. “I’ve been volunteering, doing breakfasts for unhoused people, asylum seekers and anybody who's struggling with the cost of living crisis in [Birmingham]... I don’t organise anything but because I’ve been there for a while now, I think I probably have taken on a bit of a leadership role”. This charity is called Let’s Feed Brum, and Kayleigh shares that it is something she feels very privileged to be part of, recently supporting the delivery of an event in aid of the Turkey/Syria disaster which raised around seven thousand pounds.

This desire to work with people in the community has led Kayleigh to combine her passions for music and locial action, and saw her work on “a project as a Community Musician which is really what I wanted to do.” Since then, Kayleigh has been developing her career as an inclusive arts practitioner: “I’m doing a lot of different things… I’m always on a different project… it’s been going really well!”

Kayleigh sees one of her biggest UpRising takeaways being “the connections that it gave [her] and just the knowledge that there are people who care about doing good things in the world.”