The ISLA Gift Cambridge at Churchill College was first conceived in partnership with Imani Jeffers (U15) to help address the historic underrepresentation of Black UK students at Cambridge University and to encourage more applications to Churchill and Cambridge. Now in its third year, winners have received financial awards ranging from £100-£200, as well gaining access to mentoring from Churchill alumni. Applications for current students are now open for the next round of Awards which will be made in November. 

Imani is still very much involved with the ISLA initiative at the College, which she fits in alongside a busy role in UX Research at the John Lewis Partnership, and a passion for music. You can read the full story of Imani and the ISLA Gift below.

 I’m so excited and grateful to continue working with my amazing home College – Churchill College – this year, to support talent within the black community, and to help more students fulfil their dreams!

The story of Imani Jeffers (U15) and the ISLA Gift

When Imani Jeffers (U15) arrived at Churchill only 15 Black male students were admitted to Cambridge University in her year, out of thousands of freshers. She was also the only Black woman graduand at Churchill in her undergraduate cohort. However, Imani’s experience at Cambridge was overwhelmingly positive because Churchill was a place where she felt comfortable, supported and safe thanks to the relaxed environment, peaceful location and diverse student population.

In June 2020, having seen the disruption students faced as a result of the pandemic, plus the painful tragedies witnessed that year with the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent BLM marches, Imani was looking for a way to do something positive and lasting to make a change in her community. She decided to start the ISLA Gift and made an annual pledge to offer financial support and academic mentorship to 3 black students. Imani launched the appeal, news spread and she was overjoyed when donors and mentor partners stepped forward to offer their support for the scheme. As a result, Imani was able to award cash gifts to 17 winners, and academic mentoring support to a further 21 students, thanks to the pool of mentor partners.

Imani approached Churchill College as she knew the College was looking for ways to help address the historic under-representation of British Black students at Churchill and the University of Cambridge. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign in July 2021, the ISLA Gift Cambridge at Churchill College was born. The Award is open to UK undergraduate students of Black Caribbean and/or Black African descent who are either pursuing undergraduate study at Churchill College or are current offer-holders. Winners receive cash awards in recognition of outstanding academic achievement or exceptional achievement in Music, the Arts, Sports or any extra-curricular activities including initiatives creating a positive social, education and community impact.

The ISLA Gift has come so far since we first launched. Just a few weeks ago, one of our first winners – now a final-year student – emailed myself and his ISLA mentor to share he’d secured his dream graduate role at Goldman Sachs. Not only is it precious that our students feel led to keep in touch, but knowing the impact the award has for them years down the line is so wonderful.

Next steps

Any additional support we can secure will help to build and strengthen the impact of the award, particularly with regard to the opportunities available for those in this underrepresented group involved with our outreach/widening participation work in Croydon. If you would like to add your support, you can make a gift via the College’s online donation page by selecting ‘Other’ from the drop-down list of funds and adding ‘ISLA Gift’ to the comments box.