Navigation Toggle Icon

Podcast gives students a voice

15 July 2020

The Unite Foundation provides a unique scholarship for care leavers and estranged young people who want to go to university. The charity funds accommodation in a Unite Students room for up to three years of study.

Our scholars don’t have family support, some of them have been in care, others have been living independently, or with friends or extended family, and some have been homeless. The scholarship funds a welcoming home for our scholars throughout their studies, so that they can focus on embracing the full university experience and plan their future.

Though our scholars are united by their ‘status’, their backgrounds, experiences, challenges and aspirations are all so different. It’s very easy – in fact common – to group people together based on their status. While of course there will be shared challenges and ambitions for change we work towards together, it’s important to acknowledge and promote strength in individuality in our cohort, enabling them to express this on their own terms and in their own words.

Our ambition is to empower our scholars to advocate and organise for themselves, giving them guidance and support to lead their narrative and instigate the changes they need; gaining valuable experience and opportunities for employment in the process.

Step 1 on this journey is our new podcast, “This is Us“.

‘This is Us’ is a podcast by, and for, care experienced and estranged students, presented by Paige Mackenzie. Paige is a Unite Foundation graduate who studied Media Production at Liverpool John Moores University; as an aspiring radio presenter, this isn’t just the first step on our onward journey as a charity, this is Paige’s first step in her career.

In her fortnightly podcast, Paige chats to care experienced and estranged students as they journey through university, guided by three songs that they associate with significant times in their lives. The songs can be whatever the guest chooses and can be related to anything they like; we just ask that one relates somehow to university with the podcast being predominantly for students.

So far, Paige and her guests have talked about everything – from UCAS applications, living alone in halls during lockdown, first year pressures and the importance of having good friends around who understand where you come from – through to the music icons including Little Mix, Lizzo and Lewis Capaldi. And, not forgetting how to boil an egg!

Some of our guests have discussed the challenges they face being care experienced or estranged from their family. We are hearing some common themes that together we can address to build on the work we do in helping improving the university experience for all care leavers and estranged students.

Some people don’t talk about their family situation at all and that’s ok; this is the students’ platform to talk about what they feel is important. Some are keen to address a challenge they and other students may be facing, others are keen to know how soon they can get to Wetherspoons when lockdown is lifted.

We’ve just released our sixth episode and we’ve had an incredible response from our guests, other students and our wider listenership. Networks and societies for care experienced and estranged students are keen to collaborate and we’re hearing more from students outside of our scholarship who are keen to get involved.

We’re proud that this is fast becoming a vibrant platform that unites care experienced and estranged students, through both their commonalities and individualities; and that wider audiences are listening and interested to hear what our young people have to say. We’re excited to see this network grow beyond the podcast to amplify the voices of our young people and be a catalyst for change.

Make sure you have a listen!