I attended the AQA Unlocking Potential course in 2013 where I was mentored by Commonwealth gold medallist Clare Bennett. From birth I had a visual impairment and although I was hard working and did a number of extra-curricular activities as well, my teachers knew that I was still worried about life after school. They put me forward for the AQA Unlocking Potential Programme to show me that anything was possible if I put my mind to it.

As part of the programme, we had to deliver a social action project and at the time I was hoping to be a costume designer so I set out to put on a fashion show at school to raise money for charity. The fashion show had three categories in total: ‘Fairytale’, ‘Bollywood’, and ‘Evening Wear’. I made all the clothing for the fairytale category - the costumes were inspired by Disney films such as Snow White. I made sure all the costumes were made from recyclable materials for added environmental kudos.   

Putting on the fashion show gave me a confidence boost and allowed me to explore my ambitions with confidence when I leave school.  I look at the fact that I was able to put it together, I wasn’t going to be able to do it on my own but putting it together was the skill. Surround yourself with good people and the people who helped me with the fashion show had already knew me throughout my school life, all the people who helped me were teachers. I was basically managing teachers… Everybody was really helpful. I had a really good team, I had the top teachers overlooking everything, helping me.

The whole programme taught me that I might be thinking I am going through a lot in my life but I only see myself…I think it taught me to put myself in other people’s shoes. The programme will always give me a positive vibe, it had a massive impact on me and will forever. I wouldn’t take part in something that wouldn’t have an impact on me. Unlocking Potential will always have a special place in my heart.

Ten Year Anniversary Update

At the time I wanted to be a fashion designer and I think the Unlocking Potential programme made my path a little bit clearer. Because without it I wouldn’t have had my fashion show which wouldn’t have lead me to my university’s open day where I made my decision that I don’t want to do fashion anymore. I decided to study law at Brunel University and this has led to where I am today…  I am currently doing a four year course, known as a sandwich course where in our third year I have the opportunity to conduct a years placement. 

I have just finished my placement year, working in Parliament for Rt Hon David Lammy MP. Working for David was fantastic, he is a high profile Labour MP who is very vocal about current affairs. He has recently conducted a review on the criminal justice system which ties up really well with my degree. 

At work I have also been put in touch with the parliamentary group ParliABLE who aim to make the relevant adjustments and raise awareness for members and staff with disabilities. There is hopefully an opportunity for me to hold an event with them about raising awareness about visual impairment. 

At university I have still carried on taking part in the extra curricular activities. I am a member of the law society as well as the Islamic society. I am also employed by my university as a student ambassador where I conduct tours and talks in and around campus to prospective students. 

I have had a few challenges at university but through the skills I learned at the programs such as AQA Unlocking Potential I've been able to resolve these issues. I'm also a member of the Trust's Youth Panel which is helping to shape the future of the Trust which I'm really excited about as well.

Haleemah features in a new video highlighting her journey since attending AQA Unlocking Potential in 2013.