Two undergraduate students at St Catharine’s College have drawn upon their own experiences to help devise and launch a new online community to support disabled and disadvantaged students.
Head Up! is designed to promote the interests of young people with disabilities, physical and/or mental health conditions, specific learning difficulties and neurodiversity; offering practical advice and support concerning their education and welfare. It is the brain-child of a group of around 40 Cambridge students, including Mhairi McLay (2018, Natural Sciences) as Vice-President and Emma Dinnage (2018, Natural Sciences) as Web Lead and Treasurer, who wanted to share advice and first-hand experiences in school, at university and in their social lives to encourage and inspire others aged 14 or older.
Mhairi explains, “I have benefitted so much from the support available during my time at Cambridge, from the College to the Cambridge SU Disabled Students’ Campaign. However, to access this support you need to know it is there in the first place, and be prepared for all the extra admin. We’ve effectively pooled everything that we would have wanted to know when we were at school or about to arrive as a Fresher, so that others in that position can feel more informed and confident.”
Already Head Up! offers information on disability inclusion and advice across a range of key topics, case studies and opinion pieces, and a form to join a mentoring scheme. The Head Up! website and social media are already live and these will be joined by video content in the near future. The first wave of information is geared towards students thinking about applying to the University of Cambridge, navigating the application process or starting their studies here. However, the Head Up! team intends to grow the community to encompass content from other universities.
Emma adds, “I’m so proud of how much the team has achieved in such a short space of time, given that we only started to talk about the idea at the start of the summer. It is easy to feel isolated by our differences, so I hope we can help as many as young people as possible by showing that there are plenty of students out there who have overcome similar challenges and are now thriving at university.”
Current students with relevant experiences are invited to get involved as a volunteer or mentor, while allies and supporters like College Tutors are encouraged to share the Head Up! resources with young people who might find these helpful.