‘I was labelled challenging at school but my teachers helped me... Now I run a start-up to mentor young women’
- Credit: Toyin Ayedun-Alase
Labelled a ‘challenging’ kid, Toyin Ayedun-Alase was shown her potential by a pair of supportive teachers. Now she wants to do the same for others in Hackney. She tells the Gazette her story.
“WAGs” isn’t a term generally associated with strong, independent women standing on their own feet.
But Toyin Ayedun-Alase’s WAGs are a far cry from the soccer stereotype.
She hopes to encourage, empower and equip the “Women After Greatness” aged 12 to 26 she coaches and mentors through her social enterprise.
Toyin, from the Downs Estate in Amhurst Road, dubs it a “passion project”, and wants to give others the same kind of help she received from her teachers at Cardinal Pole School after she went off the rails.
“It’s quite a strict Catholic school and I was very academic but I wasn’t one of the young people who knew how to manage my behaviour outbursts,” she said. “By the time I was 12 or 13 I was very much labelled and I struggled to push through each academic year. I was kicked out of the house when I was 17.
“I was in a system where I was quote-unquote challenging and constantly excluded in the short term and my only saving grace was I loved studying.
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“I didn’t necessarily make all the wisest decisions growing up myself, but the one thing I could bank on was one or two individuals who mentored me. My drama teacher and English teacher supported me to stay out of harm’s way.”
Studying politics and sociology at Brunel University, she discovered her passion for advocacy and working with young women.
Now she wants to give others the same kind of help that she says saved her.
On her return to Hackney she volunteered at the Concorde youth centre, where she “hijacked” her sister’s friends and put on personal development workshops for them.
The project snowballed on social media and she has just run a test pilot scheme where 12 girls had a mentor for six months.
Toyin said: “We really saw the fruits of that, and we were invited to pitch some of the ideas I had for funding. My focus is now to do workshops but I want to focus on mentors and skill building.”
An upcoming workshop, “Four Fs Sake” is designed to let get help women be more financially savvy, teaching them to budget and think about their future investments.
There are still 25 places available on the workshop on September 5 from 1pm to 4.30pm. See fourfsake.eventbrite.co.uk.