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Big Changer of the Month: Jeremiah Emmanuel

25 February 2016: posted by BigChange

Jeremiah Emmanuel is often referred to as a ‘teen hero’, and with good reason. He’s a successful youth activist, he has founded his own organisation to combat youth violence on the streets of London, and now he is the founder and leader of Radio1’s first Youth Council.  Check out our interview with Jeremiah to  find out what inspires him and what has helped him to create big change in his community.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What inspired you to become a youth activist and to found 1BC?

My name is Jeremiah Emmanuel, and I am 16 years old. Growing up with my mother being a youth worker, I was always exposed to youth campaigns and projects. This is what inspired me to become a youth activist.

In 2013, whilst I was the Deputy Young Mayor of Lambeth, I founded 1BC, a collective of young leaders and organisations from across London. I was supported by a unique and incredible group of people, and it’s been great to see how we progressed as individuals and as a team, in effectively raising awareness about youth violence and breaking barriers down between young people and adults.

Do you have a role model, or someone who inspires you in the work that you do?

There are many people who have inspired me along my journey and who have helped me become who I am today. One of these people goes by the name of Dumi Oburota, who is the Founding Director of Disturbing London. He created not just a record label, but a movement.

Dumi was one of the many people who have made me understand the importance of hard work, especially at times when I would feel that many things were time consuming and tedious. He’s also taught me the importance of having a growth mindset. It’s easy to see where he has implemented this in his own work- in just 10 years he built a musical empire! He started with just an idea, and he did everything he needed to do to deliver and turn his dreams into a reality. That inspires me.

We need more role models and people of influence to not only tell young people about their route to success, but to also enlighten them about the ups and the downs along the way.

Can you tell us about a time that you faced a challenge or a set back? How did you cope with it and work to overcome it?

I remember my final two years in Secondary School, I had just started my GCSE’s and one of the compulsory subjects was Religious Studies. I thought it was such an easy subject, and that I had it in the bag – especially as I was a regular church-goer. By the end of my first year, I was regularly behind on homework deadlines, I left revision to the last minute, and I would disagree with the comments that my teachers would make about my work. Eventually, I was taken off the course.

Luckily, I was able to persuade my teacher to allow me to sit one more mock exam to prove I should sit the final exam. I immediately changed my attitude about the subject. The reason I was not doing well is because I thought it was easy, so I didn’t try! I knew I had to do something, so I pulled out the textbooks. I began to slowly improve, and by the time I sat my GCSE’s I had achieved an A* in a subject I previously didn’t care about. Religious studies ended up being one of my favourite subjects.

My time and effort paid off, but it this was a lesson in not taking my abilities for granted. I thought I was a natural at religious studies, so I didn’t make an effort, and as a result I almost failed. Rather than succumbing to that failure, I worked hard to get my grades back up. It was a good reminder that it is effort and dedication leads to success, not just natural ability.


Are there any things that you experience or witness in your community as holding young people back from reaching their full potential?

I feel that young people are constantly pushed into a system, a constant cycle that they must follow. Go to school, then university, get a job, and then continue down this path. Some aspects of this journey are very important, education being one of them. But the majority of the time young people in my community are forced into thinking that they must live their lives in a certain way.

I think a lot of young people believe that if they go on an alternative route this could have a detrimental effect on their life, so the talents of many of our young people are left undiscovered. I believe we are a generation of creatives, and we should be encouraged to explore all the diverse options out there.

How do you think we can encourage more young people to have a growth mindset, and to have greater confidence in themselves?

I think we need more role models and people of influence to not only tell young people about their route to success, but to also enlighten them about the ups and the downs along the way. The idea of growth mindset should be implemented into the national curriculum, and by doing so more and more young people will understand how to hold such a mindset and reach their full potential.

If you had a magic wand and could make one big change in the world, what would it be?

If I could make one big change in the world it will be for young people to have more influence over the things that affect them.

Big Changer of the Month:  Ruth Ibegbuna

Big Changer of the Month:  Alex Petch

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