RARE  RISINGSTARS 2014 The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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photo of Carlton McFarlane
When Raph [Mokades, Managing Director of Rare] asked me to edit the publication this year, I was more than a little bemused. I had never edited anything other than academic essays and I had never even been to the Rare Rising Stars ceremony. Only now, with both of these boxes ticked, am I fully aware of the magnitude of the task I was set, and the honour that was bestowed upon me.

To call it an honour is no platitude. Hearing and sharing the Stars� achievements and successes has been a sincerely humbling experience, and I need only two words to summarise why: excuses and excellence. Let me explain.

Like the Stars and, I�m sure, many who will read this, I have faced my fair share of difficulties and hardships. I grew up in Camberwell, South London and home life was tough � I avoid the phrase �broken home� as it implies that the environment my mum struggled and strived to create was somehow defective: the love she showered upon my sister and me was anything but. Nevertheless, it would be fair to say that mum was unlucky in love, and that this had its own consequences.

One of those consequences was that I became homeless in my late teens � getting heavily involved in drugs and on the wrong side of the law in the process. It wasn�t particularly glamorous or noteworthy stuff � I can count the number of times I truly slept rough on one hand, and most of this short nine-month period was either spent living out of my old navy blue Ford Orion or in a homeless hostel. Nevertheless, when I�ve looked back on the things that I didn�t achieve and the dreams I didn�t fulfil, very occasionally, in my mind, I�ve allowed my experiences to be an excuse for my shortcomings.

What is so remarkable about the Stars, then, is that they refuse to allow anything to be an excuse for underachievement � not pressure, nor poverty, nor lack of precedent. They maintain their focus and do what needs to be done.

In amongst Raph�s kind words (click here), he mentions some of the things I have tried. The full list is probably ten times as long. At 18, I was, simultaneously, an IT administrator, PE teacher and contract cleaner at a local primary school. If you can name it, I�ve probably had (or thought about having) a go at it. It has taken me over 30 years to start to have an inkling of what I might be good at and where my strengths might lie.

The thing that has struck me most about the Stars is that, at such tender ages, they not only have strong ideas about what they want to do, but they are already excelling in their chosen fields, and normally in more than one field. If they can re-draw the boundaries of possibility for me, and raise my expectations of myself at 33, imagine the effect they are having upon the next generation. They are inspiring in the true sense of the word � living proof for all around, young and old, that there need not be any excuse for not achieving excellence.

Carlton McFarlane