RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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No. 9


James Appiah III

Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS)
University of Cambridge
Youth Activism and Entrepreneurship

Varaidzo Kativhu

James grew up in Stratford, Newham, with his three siblings and parents, but the family later moved to Romford, Essex. Ironically, James reflects, Stratford had more issues, but it also had a stronger sense of community, and this would serve as the driving force for much of James’ later life.

In latter secondary school, James became involved with a charity called CAFOD, which is heavily involved in global development issues. This was one of his first interactions with international politics, and James would go on to lead a session on Palestine at his school.

Sixth form saw James develop his interest in politics further when he joined TELCO (now Citizens UK) and became the Co-Chair for his borough. This involved facilitating discussions on knife crime and feeding back youth opinion to Scotland Yard, local MPs and the Mayor, for which James was featured on LBC Radio and the BBC. He also hosted a march attended by over 70 people at Stratford Shopping Centre in a campaign for the venue to create safe havens for victims of knife crime.

Later, James became a Youth Parliament Select Committee Member and a Member of the British Youth Council. This involved meeting regularly with MPs and community leaders to discuss a range of issues, including preventative knife crime measures, social media, youth culture, parenting and schools. Shortly afterwards, James received the opportunity to sit on the UK Youth Advisory Forum, where he worked with various branches of government to tackle serious violence across the UK. Social media was a particular focus of these discussions, and James played a pivotal role in debating policy issues such as how to prevent knives being displayed casually on social media platforms, and how social media companies might be better regulated. In Year 12, he advised the Cabinet Office on their Serious Violence Strategy and was later nominated to join the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Here, he spoke to over 40 MPs on topics such as gender scrutiny, mental health, toxic masculinity, and his experiences as a young, Black male in the UK.

A range of internships followed, solidifying James’ desire to study Politics at university. This included a week at Rothschild in their healthcare sector, and two work experiences with his local MPs. These placements provided him with an insight into the workings of Westminster, however dealing with constituency letters (and the concerns of genuinely distressed citizens) also highlighted the bureaucracy of the system to him, further cementing his desire to go into policy.

Now in his first year at the University of Cambridge, James has continued to devote himself to empowering young people through economics, politics and education. One example of this is his founding of The Elevation Network, a think-tank-like platform which brings together influencers, entrepreneurs, youth activists, speakers and other prominent individuals to discuss careers advice and inspire and support young people. During the first lockdown, James hosted three series to over 100 students, including a panel discussion with five ACS Presidents and business professionals from McKinsey & Company. Building upon his leadership experience as Head Boy at school, James now heads up a team from Russell Group universities across the UK.

James is also the co-founder of Black Ivy Partners, a student-led investment fund and financial literacy initiative which aims to educate young people about cryptocurrency, asset classes and more. Established during the first lockdown, the team posts regular educational content on various social media platforms. Since launching, they have amassed almost 900 followers and their mailing list includes more than 350 people. They have also created nine internships to date, whereby students are encouraged to develop their commercial awareness, research and financial analysis skills. This interest in finance has led James to secure two summer internships at BlackRock.

In January 2021, James founded the Tomorrow’s Story podcast, where he hosts frequent discussions ranging from current affairs to philosophy to public policy. He has released 18 episodes to date, with close to 2000 listens. The aim of the podcast is to encourage students from social mobility backgrounds to debate prominent issues, and topics have spanned knife crime and the pandemic, to the treatment of Meghan Markle and abolishing private schools.

James currently serves as Access Officer of the Cambridge Union. He hopes to embark upon a career in banking, before becoming an MP and/or policy advisor.

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