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Willows High School

Role Model Catwalk

On the afternoon of Friday 15th January, Willows High School opened its doors to its first ‘Role Model Catwalk.’ The purpose of the session was to motivate and inspire the Y11 girls to aim high, both in education and their future careers.

The conference opened with BBC Wales’ Behnaz Akghar who urged the girls to seek work experience in their chosen career from a young age. Her motto ‘fake it till you make it’ encouraged the girls to be resilient in the face of setbacks. This message was repeated by ex-pupil, Jodie Gibson who, aged just 21, has just landed her dream job with British Airways. Jodie encouraged the girls to ‘never give up’ no matter how many times they were rejected or dismissed. Rhiannon White, a young Theatre Director, furthered this message. She explained that she had often been ‘knocked back’ by her post-code and misconceptions but was encouraged to apply for University by a supportive teacher. Rhiannon explained how this experience ‘changed her life’ and ‘opened her eyes to the world around her.’ She urged the girls to follow their dream career and ‘travel the world.’

Next, we heard from a variety of medical specialists. Dr. Julia Lewis, a consultant psychiatrist, explained the value of setting high goals and keeping focused on them. She spoke of her experiences and setbacks and how with self-belief she overcame all obstacles. Maryanne Bray, a newly-qualified, mid-wife spoke next about the importance of ‘doing a job that you love’ and the rewards of her dream profession. Lastly, we heard from Dr. Rhian Hobrough, a vet, who wasn’t well behaved in school, until she realised that she needed to ‘knuckle down’ in Y11 in order to gain one of the places in the competitive environment of Vet School. Rhian explained the ups and downs of her everyday life, such as having to remove a pencil case from a dog’s stomach and attending the Rugby World Cup with the animal mascots! She, once again, reiterated the message to not let anyone hold you back from achieving your dreams.

Lynda Campbell, a business woman employed by British Gas, explained her personal journey from Willows High school to having her dream job, house and lifestyle. She showed the girls the importance of setting targets for yourself and of putting in hard work, dedication and commitment to achieve your goals. She was followed by vicar, Sarah Rogers who talked about following your vocation and the importance of believing in yourself.

The World of Science was represented by ex-pupil Hayley Gallagher who demonstrated the importance of her job and of leading a fulfilling career. Hayley explained how much she’d loved attending University and both the academic and social benefits of this. She showed how her career opened opportunities for world-wide travel whilst working towards a cure for heart disease. The importance of following a worth-while career was furthered by Christine Powell, a retired Physics teacher, who explained her struggle for success in a male-dominated arena. Christine encouraged the girls to break stereotypes and to ‘go against the mould’ in order to pursue the lifestyle they desire.

The conference closed with a heart-warming speech by lecturer, Alison Davies. Alison recalled how she was expected to ‘live a normal girl’s life’ until she was faced with a situation where she knew she had to be successful to be a good role model for her young daughters. As the mother of our very own, Miss. Davies, Alison explained how she rose to the top of her career and has encouraged ‘her girls’ to work hard, attend University and fulfil their dreams.

After the conference, the girls had the opportunity to chat with the inspirational role models. Many exchanged contact details, reading lists and advice. The girls then had a chance to use their team-work and creative skills in a ‘Selfie Scavenger Hunt.’ They completed a ‘Confidence Cards’ activity

highlighting their positive qualities which they will keep on their bedroom walls for inspiration and motivation. The whole session ended with a group dance. The pupils, female staff and the speakers left the event inspired!