Record-breaking runner inspires local school pupils at outreach event

Students from six local schools were welcomed onto the Warwick University campus on Wednesday 17th for the first in-person outreach event since the covid-19 pandemic. The event was part of the University’s wide-ranging programme of activities designed to break down perceived barriers, challenge myths about university, and encourage young people to aim high.

Pupils and staff from Lyng Hall School, Ormiston SWB Academy, President Kennedy School, Stoke Park School, Westwood Academy and Whitley Academy enjoyed a visited hosted by the University’s outreach team and featuring record-breaking runner Nick Butter, who gave an inspiring talk about his mission to run a marathon in every country in the world and the adventures that he had along the way.

Nick grabbed the attention of the group with tales of a close encounter with a cheetah in the bush, the problem of having your running shoes eaten by pigs – twice – and what to do if you get covered in leeches before turning to his more serious message about aiming high, believing in your ability to overcome obstacles, and always looking for the positive in people and places.

Looking back to the chance conversation with a fellow runner and new friend during the Marathon des Sables desert endurance race which inspired his decision to run the world, Nick spoke about his motivation to take on the 674-day challenge, and encouraged his young audience to have a similar positive attitude towards their own goals.

He said “If you find something hard, don’t give up – keep going at it until it gets easier. That’s what I’ve done with my running.

“You’re all at an age where you can pick what you want to do, go for it all guns blazing, and make it happen.”

Myshola Kirkham, Design and Technology Teacher, who accompanied a group from President Kennedy School in Holbrooks, and who is a keen runner herself, said: “What a great inspiration Nick is – not just in his sporting achievements but having struggled himself academically and physically before achieving success.”

President Kennedy School Y7 pupil Chloe H added “Nick Butter inspired us to be more passionate about what we want to be. The thing that hit me most was when Nick said ‘never wait for a disaster to hit you, just start following your dreams.’ Nick spoke about once he started following his dreams the path was never straight, there are corners to turn.”

Joanna Jones, Careers Lead at Ormiston SWB Academy in Wolverhampton Academy, said “Nick’s achievements are absolutely incredible. He will inspire our students to believe they can overcome anything.”

Abdul, one of the Y7 group attending from Lyng Hall School in Coventry said: “The talk has helped me get a better mindset – it doesn’t matter what you want to be, just try your best.”

Lyng Hall School teacher Zain Ahbedin added: “Nick managed to keep the attention and engagement of a class full of year 7s, without any interruptions, for a solid hour and a bit! This was testament of how important his message of perseverance and struggle was; it was the ‘human’ aspect of the speech that really got pupils to listen.

“The talk will live long in the memory of our pupils, and my own, no doubt about that! I still have year 7s running up to me during break and lunch times to say how good the afternoon was and how two of them ‘managed to get selfies’ with Nick! This all made for a personable, meaningful and highly motivation afternoon. Thank You Warwick Uni!”

Oliver, from Whitley Academy, said: “The best bit was seeing that I can change myself by thinking. And I realised that I can rely on my friends as well like Nick did.”

As well as the talk, Ryan Northwood, Head of Year 7 at Westwood Academy, welcomed the opportunity to give his pupils a glimpse of the university. He said: “the students we have brought today have the ability to achieve a university place but may well be the first in their family to do so, so we wanted them to experience the campus.”

Catherine McNicholl, Widening Participation Officer at the University of Warwick, said: “We are delighted to have schools back on campus again, after such a long gap. It’s great to be getting back to doing what we enjoy the most, working directly with young people and enabling them to have a positive experience on our campus.

“Most of the pupils today won’t have been onto our campus before, and so even this short event, with the chance to speak to current Warwick students as well as hearing Nick’s amazing (and terrifying) stories will hopefully help to start breaking down any perceived barriers or myths they might have had about university.”

30 November 2021

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