CEO of Education Partnership North East, Ellen Thinnesen, interviewed Student President, Zainab Nadeem, leader to leader, to learn more about her as a young female leader.
Zainab is Student President for Education Partnership North East, which includes Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College.
I have learnt about the importance of smiling, being positive and optimistic. I have learnt to see two sides to every situation and I’m aware of the importance of being caring. I was bullied at school and in developing forgiveness, I always think no matter what people do, you never know what they are going through themselves. I think twice about jumping to any conclusions and try to support others to do the same.
As a student I was quite quiet, however, within this role I have become more confident and more able to speak in front of groups of people. Coming to Sunderland College has brought me out of myself. I clicked with the culture of the college straight away and found I could really be myself.
In the context of my culture and race, and taking the journey I have, it has not been without its challenges. I took the decision to follow my passion and studying photography but I have had to deal with questions about my choice of study as it was seen as a non-academic route, however my parents and especially my dad were supportive of anything I wanted to do.
I knew this was my passion and I believe that if you are going to work at something all of your life, it’s important that you enjoy it. Sunderland College has been the best thing that has happened to me and is responsible for me being in the best place that I am today.
Photography opened my eyes and helped me see that we can use any part of the world creatively. I developed an appreciation of finding beauty in everything through the angle which it is viewed. For example, I leant to think about my bullies at school and that each one of them will have had their own story.
I would describe myself differently to how I think my parents would describe me. Firstly, I’m an Aquarius so I’m loyal and in Harry Potter’s words, I’m more of a Hufflepuff at heart, than a Gryffindor. By that I mean I’m more fair and friendly than bold and daring.
I like to think differently about the world and I always question and think about what’s possible. I am really excited to go to university and travel the world to see different cultures and people.
I love the story of the suffragettes. I feel that these women opened up multiple pathways for women into the future like you and I. They made a difference.
I was born in Sunderland and I’m the first of everything – the first child, the first grandchild, the first sibling, niece and cousin. It can be hard as there is so much responsibility with others looking up to you, but I’m proud of myself because I’m doing something I enjoy and my parents are supportive of my choices and achievements.
I came to Sunderland College after leaving school and studied Level 3 Btec in Photography for two years. Following this, I applied for the position of Student President, which is a one-year paid post, as I wanted to gain leadership experience and make a positive difference for students. I also thought it would be a good way to develop my financial independence before progressing to further studies. When I became Student President, my dad was so proud, he started to call everyone in my family saying guess what, my daughter is Student President of seven campuses!
I love Netflix and playing games on Nintendo DS, Switch and Wi – my biggest achievement is getting all 3 stars on the Classic Mario! I also enjoy music and art, and eating!
I have been involved in a Christmas fayre for staff and students, awareness raising on International Men’s Day and speaking to students and ensuring the college is acting on their feedback. I improved safety for students at Hartlepool Sixth Form and I’m a member of the College’s Green and Sustainability group – something that I’m really passionate about. I also managed to get pancakes in the college refectory on Pancake Day for the first time ever! I’m currently organising trips for students across Education Partnership North East and I also attend the governing body meetings.
I want to do as much as possible with my life and never want to stop learning. I want to use my voice to speak up to thousands of people. I see influencers on social media and wonder what difference they really make. My message will be about reminding people that no matter a person’s belief or background, respect for difference and diversity is so important. It breaks my heart when I see hate filled communication on social media. This is why I want to use my voice as a platform. We are all human, we all have different beliefs and we need to respect each other’s humanity.
I am so happy I have been accepted into my first choice university and will be studying Fashion Photography at Leeds Arts University. I just love saying this!
To females I want to say don’t knock each other down, stand together. To teachers – continue to make learning a positive experience and continue to ensure that students challenge stereotyping.
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