AQA Unlocking Potential graduate Haleemah Farooq is currently on a year long work placement with David Lammy MP.
AQA Unlocking Potential is a life-changing mentoring programme for young people aged 14 to 19 who have overcome personal challenges. It is delivered jointly with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.
David Lammy had high praise for Haleemah – who is partially sighted – not only regarding her work but also her involvement in raising awareness about accessibility issues for disabled people working in Parliament through the ParliAble group, a disability support group run by parliamentary staff.
David Lammy said:
“Haleemah has been excellent since her arrival and taught us all so much. She will definitely leave behind a legacy from her short time in Parliament.”
One thing has already changed. The steps that lead to Haleemah’s office building have had hi-vis yellow strips added to them so she can see them more easily.
These comments were echoed by her manager, Josh Kaile, who said:
“Haleemah has been amazing. She truly is an inspirational individual and the way she goes about her everyday life has made all of us think about our own behaviour.
“I’m a lot more aware of others when moving about and I find myself complaining a lot less about the little problems I encounter from day to day.
“She has coped amazingly well with the varied workload, currently managing upwards of 40 caseloads and every day she inspires someone else she meets in Parliament.”
Haleemah completed the AQA Unlocking Potential programme in 2013 and is currently on a year’s work placement with the MP for Tottenham’s office, as part of her law studies at Brunel University.
However, this wasn’t always where she saw her future career heading.
For her social action project as part of AQA Unlocking Potential, Haleemah put on a fashion show to raise money for people affected by the war in Syria, with the help from her athlete mentor from the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, Claire Bennett, her teachers, friends and family.
The success of the day gave Haleemah a real confidence boost and she decided to pursue her interest in fashion, but it wasn’t until a university open day that her career aspirations took a big change in direction.
Haleemah would have needed assistance in assembling her final collection had she taken a fashion course at university. She discovered that this meant she would be unable to receive a final grade in any fashion design degree she chose to pursue.
Haleemah did not become disheartened and this only strengthened her determination to succeed, eventually settling on a career in law. Fast forward a few years and she now finds herself working for a high profile MP in one of the most challenging constituencies in London.
Haleemah’s advice to anyone on the programme – or signing up for next year – is very simple:
“This is a great opportunity to work with some very dedicated professional athletes. They will help you, inspire you and push you on to greater things.”
“If you get the chance, seize it with both hands and don’t look back.”
We were interviewing Haleemah and covering her presentation to the ParliAble group as part of our filming for this year’s AQA Unlocking Potential programme. The full video will be available later this year but you can follow Haleemah’s story so far here: Dame Kelly Holmes Trust - Haleemahs Story