When Oyindamola (Oyinda) Adeniyi was in the process of applying for medical school, she felt that she had minimal help or external guidance. She felt that she didn’t have any of the resources or information that she needed and she was lost when it came to questions like where the best places to apply were, or how to craft an application that would make her stand out. One of the biggest things she worried about was the diversity of the medical schools that she was applying to, and she couldn’t help but ask herself, “Will I be the only black person in the room?”
Not knowing where to turn to find these answers, Oyinda decided that she needed to be that source of information, that she would be the place people could turn to. Fueled by this personal experience, Oyinda and her fellow students, George Obolo, Pobor Eruesegbefe and Amgad Salih, founded The Black Excellence Network in April of 2020. Many sixth form students like Oyinda struggle when they are looking at their next steps into tertiary education. Without connections or hands-on guidance, the world of university applications, as well as internships and career opportunities can be impossible to navigate. It is common knowledge that this disproportionately affects black students, with the “race for equality” report by NUS noting that this is largely due to insufficient information and guidance from their schools when they are applying to university.
Oyinda and her co-founders decided that they would be the ones to bridge this gap.
Through mentorship programs, consultancy options, opportunities lists and a community where students can reach out to one another, The Black Excellence Network aims to ease that process for young black people in the UK. In just over a year, the network has grown exponentially, and with over 1,250 students subscribed to their newsletter and 600+ members of their website.
Oyinda states that this initiative was born out of a number of problems that her and co-founders encountered when entering the tertiary education space. One that has been most prominent for her is a distinct lack of diversity in her classes, throughout her medical school career. But she says that she was prepared for the lack of diversity. “I knew going in that it is a common problem in the UK,” she said. “It’s an issue with people not having access to the right resources, and then not getting the right grades because of factors like that.” It wasn’t a shock to find her medical course lacking in diversity, and she did her best to fit in. She goes on to talk about how she hasn’t had any overt experiences in med school with prejudice yet, she hasn’t experienced any microaggressions yet. The word ‘yet’ keeps punctuating her sentences and she comments on it, saying that she’s almost always just expecting it. Even during her work placements, she has had no bad experiences - but she says many of her friends have had bad experiences, and experienced microaggressions and similar moments either in a university setting or their work placements. With so many stories and experiences, she recognizes that she feels as if it is just bound to happen at some point.
When Oyinda was growing up, she didn’t really think of medicine as an option - it just seemed impossible to get in. But by the time she reached year 12 or 13, she found herself in a widening participation scheme that showed her what it would be like to study medicine, and that is part of the reason why she finds herself where she is today.
And now, she is enacting change for black students across the education spectrum. Students from a wide array of faculties, from law to humanities, to creatives to medicine are a part of The Black Excellence Network community. Although she did not have as much guidance as she could have had when applying for med school, she is ensuring the same does not happen to those who come after her.
Want to keep up to date with Oyinda and her work with The Black Excellence Network? Click the links below!
The Black Excellence Network Website: https://blackexcellencenetwork.net