An architecture student has told how a De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) scholarship named in honour of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence has opened up a world of opportunities.
Gulcan Kara, who is in her first year at DMU, says the Stephen Lawrence Professional Scholarship has meant she can pursue a career that may not have been possible otherwise.
Gulcan was born and raised in the East End of London in a Turkish Kurdish family and is the first in her family to go to university.
She always had jobs to help her pay her way through college but the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns made work hard to come by. Coupled with the financial strains on Gulcan’s family it meant university was looking more like a dream than a reality.
But the scholarship means Gulcan is now studying architecture and planning a career.
Gulcan is one of several students to receive the scholarship, set up in honour of Stephen Lawrence by his mother Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the former chancellor of DMU and the founding patron of the university’s Stephen Lawrence Research Centre (SLRC).
The scholarship was established to transform the career opportunities of aspiring, talented people from disadvantaged backgrounds with tuition fee reductions and an annual cash bursary.
Initially, it focused on helping disadvantaged students into careers in architecture – the profession which Stephen wanted to enter. Since then, it has been expanded into other professions including Law and Journalism.
Gulcan said: “The scholarship has helped me a lot. I can buy the equipment I need for the course without struggling too much.
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“I have come from a very poor background. My mum is a single mum and I have a brother too. My mum works part-time due to health problems and relies on benefits to make ends meet.
“I have always worked alongside my studies. I lived in East London and went to college in North London so there was transport to pay for and so on.
“I am the first in my family to go to uni and without the scholarship me and my family would have really struggled to get me here. It has always been my dream to go to university. Receiving the scholarship has got me here and motivated me to carry on working hard.”
Gulcan knows the story of Stephen Lawrence and is well aware of the issue of racism as she has been a victim of the hate crime herself.
She said: “I think Stephen’s story is a great way to raise awareness of racism and the need for equality. I know the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre works in the community and with young people. That work shows DMU values young people.
“When I was younger and because of my background I was the target of racists. The family had real problems with racist neighbours and the police had to get involved.
“I was scared of going to school and always wanted somebody to drop me off. It made me so sad that Stephen was murdered by racists. It is such a cruel world.”
Now she is at DMU, Gulcan is considering the careers she might be able to go into.
She said: “Architecture is a very broad subject so I have a lot of options for what I want to do after my degree. I also did a lot of voluntary work at a youth centre in North London and once lockdown is over I would like to go back there and continue to help others too.”
Last week DMU’s Stephen Lawrence Research Centre organised ‘classroom takeovers’ at 16 schools across the city and county to help pupils understand Stephen’s story and to mark the third national Stephen Lawrence Day, which took place on Thursday 22 April.
The centre is home to top academics and a centre for discussion on how to make society fairer for all. You can find out more about the centre and its work at DMU here
Posted on Thursday 29th April 2021