"First, they laugh, and then they ask how you did it!" - says self-determined entrepreneur Olivia Hammond
"You will never be as happy as you are when you're living your truth." - says Olivia Hammond. TT caught up with the 21-year old based in Lancashire. She didn't take the traditional route through education and proves that there are many paths to success. In conversation with our YTT editor she shares her powerful and thought-provoking journey through education, the barriers she faced and hows she overcame them to become a self-determined female entrepreneur.
Hi Olivia it's great to have you with us!... Can you tell me a bit about your background and educational experiences?
I attended primary school as a child, but never attended secondary school due to my culture. I always wanted to get back into education as I'm an avid learner, and I began to teach myself Brazilian Portuguese as well as general secondary school subjects to quench that thirst for knowledge. When I was 15, after a 5-year break in education, I attended Lancaster & Morecambe College within a programme for NEET learners, which quickly progressed into my GCSEs, an administration traineeship at LMC, and a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Business Studies, which I studied for two years and received the highest grade available of triple distinction star.
I have always loved learning and have enjoyed my experiences. They've not always been easy, from casual prejudice against where I come from to the pressure I put on myself to perform well once given the opportunity, but it's the best decision I've ever made and has opened so many doors! I now work full time at Lancaster & Morecambe College within the Marketing & Engagement Department.
What were your motivations or ambitions for returning to education?
As mentioned, I've always had a passion for learning, but my real ambition was to be able to stand on my own two feet as a woman in the traveller community. We are often stereotyped as a group as needing to rely on our male counterparts for financial stability, and I wanted to push those boundaries and pave a way for other women to do the same. I've had an entrepreneurial mindset since being a young child, after growing up in a business-focused world with many of my family members being self-employed or owning small businesses, which is what led to my decision to study business.
A quote that has always given me great comfort within my journey, are the words of Emma Watson during her speech at the UN on feminism "in my moments of doubt, I told myself firmly: if not me, who? If not now, when?”
Did you experience any barriers in education and what helped?
I definitely experienced many barriers, but I feel strongly that the majority of these were the limitations I placed on myself, within my belief that I could succeed at a different life path that I had been raised for, but seeking out strong female role models and figures, and studying their attitudes and the outcome of their journeys, helped me overcome these a great deal. There is also a lack of education on our culture within most educational institutions, and I feel that this needs to change. I urge and invite any nurseries, schools, colleges, universities, extracurricular clubs, etc. to contact me or any Travellers within their communities, to discuss both the small and large changes that can be made to help with enrolling and retaining Travellers.
You were involved in the Dukes Theatre Production in Lancaster, what was your experience?
I had a fantastic experience within all of my roles over the course of several productions at The Dukes. My first experience was as a participant when I was 14, and it was honestly the experience that changed the entire course of my life. My eyes were opened to what else was available to me, and I built the confidence throughout to really follow my passions. The team were amazing, listened to us, and the whole group felt extremely comfortable during the whole process. I've since returned as a member of staff in recent years, and enjoy the opportunity to watch the same happen to other young travellers, seeing them develop confidence in their own skills.
What advice do you have for other Traveller girls?
My advice is this. First, they laugh, and then they ask how you did it! No one knows better than you, the course that you want your life to take. No matter what anyone tells you if what you want isn't the traditional route, it is not wrong or strange to consider other opportunities! Neither is it wrong to go down the traditional route, as long as you are informed and content in your choice. There are lots of people out there who will understand, should you have the courage to ask. For hundreds and thousands of you that will already have me on social media - a non-judgemental, private inbox is open at any time to offer you support! If not, my email is below. You will never be as happy as you are when you're living your truth.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us Olivia your standpoint, determination and energy is immense.
If you are an education professional that requires some consultancy or another Traveller who would like some advice you can contact Olivia at: firstname.lastname@example.org