A fortnight at the forefront of the civil service proved a life-changing experience for Eastleigh teenager Esme Lillywhite.
The Barton Peveril student was one of just 80 people selected for the Social Mobility Foundation’s Whitehall Internship Programme which helps high-achieving students from low income backgrounds gain valuable insights into leading universities and professions.
Eligibility for the fully-funded scheme is based on a unique combination of socio-economic factors and academic potential. For Esme, the opportunity to live in London while working at the Department for Communities and Local Government opened up a whole new world and focused her sights firmly on the future.
“The internship was a really good experience and gave me so much confidence in myself,” said Esme, who is studying Government & Politics, Sociology, English and Citizenship at Barton Peveril after achieving top GCSE grades at Crestwood.
“I am kind of a shy person but I spent two weeks with complete strangers and survived! I really feel I can do stuff now. It was so motivational.”
Working on everything from briefing papers to gathering intelligence on House of Commons debates, Esme’s hectic schedule included opportunities to quiz secretaries, departmental directors and even communities minister Stephen Williams about their work, academic backgrounds and career paths.
Summing up her experience, Esme said: “Before I went to Whitehall I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do. Now I am going to apply to study law and politics – or politics and international relations – at somewhere like the London School of Economics with a view to a career in the civil service.
“I don’t have words for all that the Whitehall experience gave me. I just wish everyone could do it!”