GUAP Interviews: Aliyah York – Founder of The Pupil Power, For The Isolation Issue [@ThePupilPower]

Torrin Joshua Andrews

Aliyah York is The Founder Student-Led Organisation – The Pupil Power.

Over the last few months, the Covid:19 lockdown has affected the lives of millions of people all over the country. However, in the midst of the fear and confusion, came an army of young creatives who came to entertain, inspire, and motivate the masses. 
This cover is called the ‘Isolation Issue’ because it was created in the thick of the Covid:19 lockdown. We worked with talented photographers to shoot individuals via face-time and had the opportunity, to speak to them about the impacts of Covid:19 on their creativity. 

We had the chance to interview and feature Aliyah York, who is the founder of The Pupil Power – which is a student-led movement that challenges the education system in the 21st century.

Credits: Torrin Andrews

Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a 17-year-old A-level student from East London and Founder of Pupil Power. A student-led movement challenging everyone to re-imagine the endless possibilities of what our 21st-century education system could be. Pupil Power was started by myself as a young person, run by young people for us.

What inspired you to do what you do?

As a young person in school, students often complain about how things are and how things could be better. Although being guilty of complaining too, I had enough and decided to do something about it instead. I created a space that I needed and wanted to be a part of myself. A platform to connect with like-minded individuals who want to shape our future.

How has covid:19 affected your work?

In the midst of these horrific and uncertain times, I have managed to find some light out of COVID-19. It’s proven to be an opportunity more than anything for myself and for Pupil Power. Finally, the world is watching and reflecting on how educational policies: school closures and cancellations of exams have impacted our experience of school. More students want to take action and be at the forefront of change. COVID-19 has given me hope that change is possible and post-lockdown people will act, think, and live in different ways.

What was the biggest challenge of working from home whilst in self-isolation?

My biggest challenge has been juggling life with demanding A-levels and a powerful movement that is building momentum daily. Although, I wouldn’t have it any other way- I enjoy being busy. I initially found it hard to adjust to a new routine and balance work, school, family, Netflix, and zoom calls. I most definitely feel “Zoom-ed out”.

On a day to day, how do you balance a personal and professional life, especially now that you’re working in quarantine?

I am always asking this question myself to others and being asked. I’ve come to the conclusion that the perfect work-life balance doesn’t exist. Striking the ‘right’ balance between leading a national campaign and my three A-levels is overwhelming. I have set myself new boundaries, not stressing that I have a towel on my head on my coaching calls because my hair takes hours to dry. I have learned to merge the two, yet keep both parts of my life separate.

What are some of the highlights/successes you’ve had most recently?

Connecting with hundreds of young people online and working with 80 young people each week to drive forward new Pupil Power projects. It’s been super overwhelming- the energy and passion amongst us all are through the roof. We are the future and it puts the biggest smile on my face knowing how we’re achieving in such a short time.

Not to forget, being nominated for the ITV National Diversity awards and Telegraph Inspiring Lockdown award.

What’s next for you on your journey?

Connecting with more young people. We look forward to where we’re not just talking through the screen but get to interact face to face. I enjoy every aspect of campaigning, getting to be creative, work with others, and witness the impact our projects are having is what keeps me going.

What would be your advice to other creatives, struggling to maintain creativity and motivation in isolation?

Create mind maps and vision boards. Use the people and anything around you to inspire and fuel new ideas. For instance, COVID-19 prompted me to form initiatives that were in response to current events. We identified an issue that frustrated us and turned it into a creative solution. I created #ThankClassroomHeroes to thank teachers and Pupil Power’s very first virtual event to get young people across the UK talking. Creativity doesn’t have any limits or boundaries. Let your why and purpose direct you.

What have you learnt about yourself and the world whilst in isolation?

I have discovered the level of resilience and strength I have. I do not take ‘No’ for an answer and dare to do things that others perhaps don’t believe is possible. I am far from perfect and embrace all of my mistakes. The pressures of school and campaigning for a cause that links directly to my own life can be uncomfortable and overwhelming to deal with. But I always push myself to be bold and courageous. I have learned that the world is stronger when unified and our stories can mobilise change.

How do you hope our society will change for the better after COVID -19?

My radical vision and hope for transformation start with people broadening their imagination. If you can imagine a better society, world, or future, then we are one step closer to our journey of change. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that together we have the power to act, build, and change.

Check out the GUAP Arts & Culture section, to discover new art, film, and creative individuals.

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