Yes We Can! event empowers students

What happens when a Hollywood Actress, a Secret Millionaire and a Chef to the Stars go back to school?

On October 6, members of the Twenty Ten Club headed to St Matthew Academy in Lewisham to support a special event, titled “Yes We Can!” in celebration of Black History Month. The event brought together an inspiring line up of speakers, including Hollywood actress Naomie Harris, star of Channel 4’s “Secret Millionaire” property developer Caroline Marsh and the Head Chef of The Ivy restaurant Gary Lee, to meet a packed auditorium of students and guests.

St Matthew Academy students with actress Naomie Harris

St Matthew Academy is the leading enterprise school in the country and the only institution where students are encouraged to be enterprising from the ages of 3-16. Over the course of this year the Twenty Ten Club has become involved with a number of projects at St Matthew Academy. The school has a special ethos that permeates everything it does for the students and last month’s event really was one to remember.

St Matthew Academy deputy principal Martin Nirsimloo

Conceived by St Matthew Academy’s visionary and inspiring deputy principal Martin Nirsimloo, and co-sponsored by Colorblind Cards and Precious Media, the event was designed to bring to life the iconic statement by President Barack Obama. “Yes We Can!” has served as a source of inspiration for St Matthew Academy’s curriculum, careers, enterprise, citizenship and mentoring programmes over the course of the year.

On the night event co-hosts Charlene White of ITV London and St Matthew Academy student and fashion blogger Taylor-Dior Rumble were joined by comperes Darae Palmer of MTV and Damage and the award-winning young entrepreneur Jessica Elliott of J’s Dance Factory. Jessica recently took time out of her busy schedule to take part in an interview conducted by St Matthew Academy’s press gang team for the Twenty Ten Club’s Interview an Entrepreneur school programme.

Barbara Lindsay MBE, a Senior Policy Adviser at the Government Equalities Office served as the moderator for the event’s talented line up of speakers:

  • Naomie Harris – Actress
  • Gary Lee, Head Chef, The Ivy
  • Lieutenant Commander Neville Bryce MBE – Royal Navy Engineer
  • Caroline Marsh – founder, Platinum Property Partners and star of Channel 4’s “Secret Millionaire”
  • Darren Raymond – Artistic Director, Intermission Youth Theatre
  • Natasha Faith – CEO, La Diosa jewellers
  • Dave Neita – Barrister, ELECT
  • Lorna Campbell – Cabinet Member, Lambeth Council

Actress Naomie Harris shares her life story

Each and every speaker spoke openly and honestly about their own experiences at school, how their education shaped their future goals and ambitions and provided words of encouragement. The stories shared touched not just the students in the audience but all of the adults in attendance, including myself.

Naomie Harris, the star of Hollywood blockbusters including Pirates of the Caribbean and poised to lead as the new Bond girl, shared how she was raised in by a single mother in Finsbury Park. Her mother’s determination for her daughter to have the best possible education led Naomie to complete her A-levels (with reluctance), go on to Cambridge and from there head to drama school, which proved to be turning point for her career.

Darren Raymond, Lorna Campbell & Lieutenant Commander Neville Bryce MBE

Lieutenant Commander Neville Bryce MBE shared how growing up in Nottingham at the age of 16 he faced the future prospects of playing top tier football, joining the Navy or ending up in prison. He opted for the Navy and never looked back.

Darren Raymond, artistic director of the Intermission Youth Theatre, shared how he grew up on an estate in Hackney and his mother worked hard to send him to the prestigious Westminster school.  Unfortunately, despite this, Darren took the wrong path during his teenage years and ended up incarcerated.  During his time in prison Darren discovered drama and his faith which turned his life around and resulted in a successful career as an actor and director.

Gary Lee, Natasha Faith and Dave Neita

Natasha Faith of jewellers La Diosa shared how she had cared for her mother while still at school. After saving up to travel the world after completing her studies, Natasha discovered a passion for jewellery. She is now the co-founder of an award-winning luxury brand worn by the likes of Kelly Rowland, Sarah Brown and Kim Cattrall.

Gary Lee, Head Chef of The Ivy shared how he had been abandoned by his parents before he was 10 years old, ended up in care but discovered a passion for cooking by chance while at school (as a route for meeting girls, or at least that was the plan!) and never looked back.

St Matthew Academy students

It was thought-provoking to hear such a diverse set of people share how they overcame challenges to achieve success and, more importantly, give their time to answer questions posed by St Matthew Academy’s students.

Comperes Darae Palmer and Jessica Elliott fielded multiple questions from the young audience and the event culminated in a networking session, during which we had chance to speak one-to-one with all of the speakers and chat to the students.

St Matthew Academy students with Octavia Goredema, founder of the Twenty Ten Club

It was a fantastic evening and the Twenty Ten Club can’t wait to be a part of St Matthew Academy’s next event, Believe2Achieve taking place in the new year.

Speakers and guests mingle at the event

Prince's Trust Ambassadors & serial entrepreneurs Ronke Ige and Andrea Ilaka with Octavia Goredema

Photography credit: Jon Barlow

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The Twenty Ten Club is sponsoring St Matthew Academy’s Believe2Achieve event taking place in January 2012. For more information contact: Martin Nirsimloo, Deputy Principal –

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This post was authored by Octavia Goredema, founder of the Twenty Ten Club.

The Twenty Ten Club is an award-winning social enterprise designed to connect, inspire and
support Black female entrepreneurs. You can also find Twenty Ten Club on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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