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Evelyn Taylor, Class of 2021

The story of an ABC Bursary Recipient

I grew up on Grahame Park Estate in north-west London, with my mum who is a single parent and a nurse. The estate was a harsh environment, with gang culture, knife crime and poverty. My mum worked around the clock and I went to the local comprehensive school for my GCSEs. It was a non-selective school and I wasn’t the best in class, but I tried my hardest, just like my mum was doing.

When I was nine years old, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I knew that if I wanted to succeed, I needed to go to a supportive school and get into an excellent university. I also knew that my secondary school was not going to help me. I was in a class of 30 where if you were doing well, the teachers would just let you get on with your work on your own.

Discovering Mill Hill

Coming home from school, I would pass Mill Hill on the 240 bus and look out from the top deck to see pupils in their smart uniforms, with their hockey sticks and sports bags and I wondered “What is this world?” The term ‘private school’ was alien to me; I had only seen it in newspaper headlines. When researching into Sixth Forms to guide me into higher education, I came across Mill Hill’s website and thought “What’s the worst that could happen if I applied?”

Applying for a bursary place at Sixth Form

At first, I didn’t tell my mum about my application for a bursary because she was always working and I didn’t want to bother her, particularly if I didn’t get in. I quickly realised I would have to tell her because the school needed a financial statement. I remember getting the news that I had been offered an interview at the school and thinking to myself, this is my one opportunity, and I have to give it my all. I spent every minute I could preparing. It was a surreal experience walking into the school for my interview. Mill Hill was another world.

When my mum and I received the phone call that I had been offered a place with a full bursary, it was a moment when everything in the world stood still. This was the first time I realised that anything is possible. I might not be the best or brightest, but I was deeply passionate about my subjects and was committed to my future.

Joining Mill Hill

Joining Mill Hill in September 2019 was a very big adjustment. Academically,  transitioning from a class of thirty, where you can just sit in the corner and get on with your work, to being in a class of four people was such a different feeling. My History and Politics teacher, Mrs Bradley, could tell I was a little behind the other students and offered to stay after school to help me catch up. I couldn’t believe her kindness and support. The vast selection of extracurricular clubs was overwhelming, and I wanted to be as involved with the Mill Hill community as I could.

University applications

Just as my Mill Hill journey was beginning, the pandemic started and suddenly everything changed.  When I first considered applying for the University of Cambridge, I had a conversation with the Sixth Form and Higher Education staff to talk through the application and interview process. I decided to apply because I thought, much like my journey to Mill Hill, “What’s the worst that can happen?” I never really thought it would be possible for someone like me to go to Cambridge but the support and encouragement I received from my teachers affirmed my instinct that I should apply.

One week before my law interview at Downing College, my mum was unfairly dismissed from her job. I remember receiving the news and being in dismay about the very real consequences of this. We also didn’t have any Wi-Fi at home, so I was unsure how I would complete my interview, but thankfully, Mrs Bradley (née Shaw) kindly offered to let me use her classroom. Through these challenges, I held on to the belief that my passion to study law and hard work was going to help reach the future I wanted and that it was going to change my life.

An offer from Cambridge 

In January 2021, I was coming into school with the other ‘key worker’ pupils and completing online school from the Sixth Form Centre. Everyone was anxious, finding out that our exams were cancelled, and grades were to be based on teacher assessed grades. Cambridge released all of their offers on the same day, and I remember continually checking my inbox. When I hadn’t heard by the end of the school day, I worried that maybe it wasn’t going to happen. At 15:51 I received the email. My life changed in that moment. As a recipient of a full bursary, this was a testament to my hard work.

I had never visited Cambridge before I moved in and arriving at Downing was a seminal moment. Funnily enough, I applied to Downing, not because of its reputation as the ‘law college’, but because of its architecture – the pillars reminded me of the ones outside Mill Hill’s Dining Hall. It might seem strange to have chosen my college for purely aesthetic reasons, but it’s a testament to my fond memories of Mill Hill.

Thank you

I am very grateful for the community at Mill Hill, from staff members who supported and guided me and the law alumni who shared their career wisdom with me. I made life-long friends at Mill Hill and the life experiences I had during my time there will stay with me forever. I can say, undoubtedly, that I would not be where I am today without all of the support I received from Mill Hill.

I would like to thank every single donor who has supported and continues to support bursaries at Mill Hill. You make it possible for people like me to come here and it has transformed my life. Thank you for believing in me, and other pupils who have benefitted from a bursary.