RARE  RISINGSTARS 2013 The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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No. 7


Brandon Akem

BA Law
University of Leicester
Academics and Charity
Brandon Akem

“I had no qualifications, no parents and no money.”
These are the words of Brandon Akem, a student of Law at the University of Leicester

Brandon began life in Cameroon, where, as a 14 year old, he tragically lost both his parents and was taken in by his father’s friend, a political activist who campaigned against the prevailing political hegemony. When Brandon was caught distributing flyers, the authorities tortured him and he was detained without regard to his tender age.

Brandon was tortured again at the age of 16. Following this ordeal, his foster father felt he had no choice but to send him out of Cameroon. Brandon arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied minor claiming political asylum and was granted refugee status under the Geneva Convention.

“I’d lost my parents, my home, my country and everything. I felt that I had no future. I thought that life was not worth living.”

Battling against low self‑esteem and a system that ‘wrote off’ the prospects of those who were beyond school leaving age, Brandon spent a year in a state of disaffection and hopelessness, before eventually applying to colleges with the hope that one would grant him admission. Eventually he found a college that was willing to give him a chance and persuaded cautious senior managers to allow him to take 4 A levels like his other classmates, eventually coming out with 2A*s and 2Bs.

Since then Brandon has not looked back but continues to use his story to inspire young people and policy makers alike.

Brandon is a recipient of the Inspirational Student Award, given for his efforts in helping young people in care to aspire towards university and the Helena Kennedy Award, which recognises people who have overcome great difficulties in order to get into Higher Education. Brandon’s story was also used in the social mobility report ‘Sixth Sense: How Sixth Form Colleges help students progress to Higher Education and beyond’ and as a case study during the national Sixth Form Colleges Forum.

“I had no positive role models around me but walked past the college and thought I’d try.”

Brandon continues to find time to mentor and support young people as an e‑mentor for Realising Opportunities and as a volunteer for the Centre Project. Brandon, who says that he never thought he’d be in a position where he could apply for a proper job, now finds himself applying for some of the largest and most competitive law firms in the world.

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