A De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) graduate is using her skills and experience to transform the lives of young people from underrepresented backgrounds.
Tumisha Balogun has been named DMU’s Alumna of the Month for founding The Advantage Group, a registered community interest company that delivers bespoke employability workshops to people aged 15-19.
The 23-year-old Economics and Politics graduate came up with the idea for the company with co-founder Alvin Owusu in 2018, inspired by her experience of growing up on London’s North Peckham Estate.
She said: “In Peckham – where I grew up – you’re often referred to as ‘disadvantaged’. But I just don’t ever feel like I’ve been disadvantaged. Yes, I am at a disadvantage, but I would rather use the word underrepresented.
“We don’t want young people who are like us to feel at a disadvantage because of their skin colour or because they are from a low-income family.”
Tumisha believes the key to helping young people to succeed is to teach them about careers and opportunities.
“I didn’t know much about what I wanted to do when I grew up. I think in an African household, you’re often told that you should be a doctor, or similar,” she said.
“But there are so many different opportunities out there and I feel like there’s not enough knowledge about what careers are available.”
To help, The Advantage Group links up with major companies like Google, Facebook and Shell and delivers workshops. Before the pandemic their team toured schools across South and East London, giving seminars to more than 2,000 young people.
Her long-term goal is to build The Advantage Group into a youth culture agency that partners with major brands to allow young people to work on meaningful ideas.
“What we’ve realised during this pandemic is that young people have felt a bit forgotten about, so we’d like to change that,” she said.
“During the lockdown periods we ran online sessions and created an eBook. At the moment young people don’t have a lot of opportunities to create, so we wanted to share their stories. We really believe that they have the best stories to tell.
“I think in the future we want to be able to partner with the world’s biggest brands, especially those with Gen Z as their target audience, to get young people involved in the decision-making process.”
Tumisha joined DMU through Clearing, after changing her mind about what she wanted to study.
She said: “I originally wanted to do Architecture, but I got scared. It wasn’t laziness, it was just that fear of ‘what if I don’t do well enough?’ that I took from growing up.”
Tumisha’s decision to apply instead for Economics and Politics paid off, and she graduated in 2019 having won not only the award for highest-achieving student on her course, but also the Michael Cunningham Prize for Best International Relations Dissertation.
“I really enjoyed my degree, I made such long-lasting friends, especially my American Politics lecturer Dr Clodagh Harrington, she was my favourite lecturer. I’d never done politics in my life but she really made it so enjoyable and I feel like I learned a lot.
“I did my dissertation on how popular culture affects the way we see women in leadership positions in American politics. I think that’s the best I’ve ever done. And I left with what I’d wanted, which was a first-class degree.”
And her advice for students at university now? To take advantage of everything.
She said: “You want to make sure that you stretch yourself to gain and learn as much as possible. You’re not paying to not reap the benefits of it! Increase your network. It’s not a time to be shy, or be afraid that people are going to judge you for being different.
“At DMU there were so many opportunities, so many things, and I just wish I’d taken advantage of more.”