London Youth believes that the voice of young Londoners can shape the future. We value opportunities for young people to speak their minds on the issues that matter to them to politicians, policymakers, and others who can bring about positive change. As part of this, London Youth hosted a visit by Sam Gyimah, MP for East Surrey and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Prisons and Probation (now Minister for Higher Education) just before Christmas 2017.
The event brought Sam together with young people from Dare London, Talent Match London (our Big Lottery-funded employability programme), and several of our members, including Hackney CVS and Dragon Hall. We facilitated a session for these young people on identity, their experiences of life in London and in Britain as a whole, and their view of the future.
Sam introduced himself and gave an overview of his life and the experiences that led him to his current position. Sam was born in Buckinghamshire, moved to his mother’s native Ghana for much of his upbringing, before returning to the UK to complete his A-levels and then read PPE at Oxford. He had a career as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, as well as running a think tank and his own training and recruitment company. He was first elected as MP for East Surrey in 2011 and has held various ministerial portfolios since 2012.
Sam spoke about his understanding of the different components that make up someone’s identity, based on his distinctive background, and how he had often felt challenged by the responsibility of being the eldest child in a family split between two countries with divorced parents. Sam was very clear on the importance of finding and learning from good role models and mentors. He stressed that he was where he was because of the people he had met along the way who had been generous with their time, advice, and experience.
The young people discussed a range of topics at their tables and then fed back their discussions to the larger group and to Sam, who discussed the ideas that the young people presented and gave his own thoughts on each of the topics. At the end, there was an open Q&A where the young people could ask anything they wished.
The exchange was very powerful with lots of listening taking place. The young people made the most of the opportunity to speak directly to a decision-maker in the government of the day. We hope to run similar events in the future.