Harvard University seemed so “far-fetched” that S6 pupil Andi Stannard from Orkney wondered if there was any point in applying. However, today she and another care-experienced teenager from Scotland fly to the US to take part in a seven-week summer school at the Ivy League university.
Andi – who is now 17 but has been living independently since she was 15 – and Lauren Tenn-Mills, who is 18 and from Bo’ness, near Falkirk, leave Glasgow today for the world-famous university campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just north of Boston.
Once enrolled, they will begin a busy timetable focusing on subjects selected before their departure.
Speaking in a short film about the trip, Andi said she thought when she went into care that “there was no point in having aspirations” because it was “just an unlevel playing field”. But she says she pushed herself with the help and support of her “on the ball” key worker.
“I don’t want to be living in the same place that I am in 10 years time,” says Andi, who is an S6 pupil at Kirkwall Grammar on Orkney. “I actually want to have a good life and opportunities and good stories and good things to reflect on so because of that I have pushed myself.”
Meanwhile, Lauren, who is a student at Forth Valley College, says in the film that her experience of growing up in care has been “really positive” and her parents and “people in school” pushed her “to really, really grab on to any opportunity”.
“Do not underestimate care-experienced children,” says Lauren. “We have potential.”
This is the tenth year Who Cares? Scotland has sent students to Harvard for the summer, giving care-experienced young people the opportunity to experience student life at an Ivy League university.
Figures released last week by the Scottish government show the huge attainment gap that exists between looked after children and the general pupil population. The figures showed that only 4 per cent of looked-after children were in higher education nine months after leaving school, compared with 39 per cent of all school leavers.
Duncan Dunlop, chief executive of Who Cares? Scotland, wished both girls well, adding that more needed to be done to support care-experienced people in education.
Mr Dunlop said: “I’m positive that Andi and Lauren will thrive at Harvard, and take that experience with them as they continue their studies. Andi and Lauren are among the exception. Current figures show that just 16 per cent of care-experienced young people leave school with a single Higher, or a similar qualification.
"From 40 years of evidence, we know that care-experienced people have always had high aspirations – and we need to ensure all aspects of the system are able to support their ambitions.”