Young Adult Award
Wilnelia De Jesus
Despite leaving school after her GCSEs to support her single-parent family, Wilnelia De Jesus managed to rise through the ranks of legal company Greenaway Scott to become a Practice Manager at the age of just 21. Whilst working as a Practice Manager in 2018, she started a ‘Leadership and Management’ apprenticeship to give her the skills to progress her career.
Wasting no time in utilising her new skills apprenticeship, Wilnelia put her knowledge into practice, navigating the multi-million-pound group through the operational challenges of a pandemic. Wilnelia said, ““I hope my story can show other young people of colour to disregard career stereotypes. You can do anything you put your mind to if you’re willing to work hard enough. Growing up in a Portuguese speaking household, we ate Portuguese food, watched Portuguese TV and listened to Portuguese music. In primary school it sometimes felt like a setback and a communication barrier. Now though, I realise that being bilingual is a massive bonus and it has loads of benefits.
“I’d always been passionate about the legal sector – I dreamt of being a lawyer. But I left school after my GCSEs because I needed to support my mother, who’s my biggest inspiration. At 18, I landed a job at Greenaway Scott as an apprentice and receptionist – it was the best thing to ever happen to me. I was surrounded by some remarkable characters who filled me with confidence in myself and how far I could take my career.
Wilnelia began her journey into higher education when she enrolled as a learner onto the Leadership and Management Apprenticeship in 2018 at the age of 23.
“Initially, I was overwhelmed to have so much responsibility in a multi-million-pound company.” Despite some setbacks, Wilnelia excelled in her course. Since then, she has completed another ‘Project Management’ qualification and is soon due to enroll on a Level 5 Management Diploma.
Wilnelia continued, “It was a baptism of fire. Balancing a full-time – and often intense – job alongside a challenging qualification wasn’t easy. At first, I was plagued with doubts – I struggled to believe in myself and find a work life balance. I stuck with it, and I’m so grateful that I did.”
Reflecting on her adult learning journey so far, Wilnelia said: “Even though I haven’t taken a traditional educational path with A-levels or university, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by a great support system at work. I’m going to continue learning, I haven’t come this far to stop now. Knowledge is power, so whatever I can do to better myself and get to the next level – I’ll do it. I’m really proud to be a person of colour making waves in this sector.”