We serve others
We make everyone feel special
We care passionately about everything we do
We connect and build long lasting relationships
We celebrate teamwork
We are Awaken Genius
Founder & CEO
Michael has worked in mainstream education with KS3 and KS4 children in a pastoral remit for over 14 years. As a Pupil Achievement Leader, he was a senior support figure and worked with heads of year and form tutors, which involved analysing students' progress and putting appropriate interventions in place. Michael has worked with and supported countless families to support their children in school.
Ever since Michael's friends, brother and one of his students were murdered outside the school where Michael worked, he promised to be a lifelong learner, who would aim to unlock the potential of the children that he came into contact with during his teaching, particularly the most labelled and vulnerable pupils.
Michael felt burdened with this desire to unlock their potential. His friends and colleagues would always say, “You cannot save them all.” However, in his mind, he believed there must be another way to support children who are considered disadvantaged.
Michael always saw the potential in the pupils he worked with. When staff saw a disruptive 'chatterbox', he saw a potential public speaker or orator; when staff saw a 'cocky pupil', he saw a confident pupil and a potential leader; when staff saw a fight between two pupils, he saw a warrior and potential boxer. Michael believes It's how you perceive pupils’ behaviours. Their 'undesirable' behaviours could be turned into their gifts or talents.
Nicholas is currently employed as a Large Corporate Onboarding Manager at HSBC.
Nicholas believes that a genuine alternative education programme is necessary because the way to progress as a society is to educate all of our young people to be great. Unfortunately, the current education system does not achieve this.
We cannot teach children that they are all unique if they are taught and judged in a standardised way.
The education system is currently teaching our young people how to conform rather than teaching them how to make the world a better place and this needs to change.
As a teacher specialising in supporting pupils with extreme social, emotional and behavioural and complex medical issues, Neil feels that he's well-placed to state that the timing could not be more perfect for the pedagogy and philosophy of Awaken Genius to burst into our primary school classrooms!
Over the past 15 years, Neil's work and studies have afforded me the privilege of teaching and supporting some of the most diverse, ‘at-risk’, and vulnerable pupils and families in his community during incredibly difficult times. He passionately believes that every child, without exception, deserves the gift of being able to enjoy learning for the rest of their lives, and that is the ultimate vision at Awaken Genius.
Neil believes that enough is enough! Despite decades of promises from the government, the achievement gap has continued to widen at an ever-increasing rate and the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences is at an all-time high.
As Neil writes this, Awaken Genius is still a fledgling organisation that has currently been in just a handful of schools. However, the feedback on its impact has been palpable. Furthermore, the pupil and staff responses have been amazing, and he believes we are on the right path towards creating a vital educational experience for our children; demonstrably at a time when it is most deperately needed.
Director of Education
Dr Iheanyi Nwachuku works in Southampton as a local GP.
He was born in North London to Nigerian parents and has 3 brothers and a sister.
Dr Iheanyi really enjoyed school and always wanted to do something involving science and connecting with people.
He feels that it’s important that our most vulnerable children feel a sense of belonging and safety. A community-based curriculum will certainly guarantee this. In addition, our children need to be taught in ways that are more suitable for them.
Dr Iheany feels that all children deserve to have a good education and should really enjoy it.
The human connection and enjoyment of learning is the focus of Awaken Genius, which he fully supports.
Dr. Iheanyi Kwachuku
Jagwinder is a solicitor specialising in Employment Law. Jagwinder invests time in diversity and inclusion initiatives in her workplace, as she is one of her firm’s representatives for the UK's first inter-firm diversity network, NOTICED. She also mentors students as part of her firm’s mentoring programmes.
Having mentored several young people in the last 10 years and working with government initiatives such as NCS The Challenge, Jagwinder realised that the current system is broken and that intervention in the earlier stages of a child’s education (pre-secondary school) is crucial to keeping them engaged in the system.
Jagwinder has joined Awaken Genius because she believes that society is failing children with special educational needs. Far too many children are cast off for being disruptive, when actually they just need more support. That is why Jagwinder wholeheartedly supports Awaken Genius’ mission to create a safe place where children feel secure and listened to, as by doing so they will thrive.
A mum to three children, Joanna Oliver has a diverse professional background, including within universities, charities, social care and therapeutic communities.
Having left school aged fifteen and qualifying as a Youth Worker, Joanna is committed to helping people to grow and flourish. Earning a degree in Advertising, Media and Marketing, a Masters in Therapeutic Child Care, a Masters in Education and a Post Graduate qualification in Professional Supervision, much of Joanna’s work has involved empowerment, enablement and promoting agency, motivating her interest in Awaken Genius.
Joanna’s academic career led to giving talks at conferences in universities, including Milan, Padua, Thessaloniki, Seville and the UK, a doctoral study related to collaborative working between statutory and independent sectors and a second doctoral study, currently in progress, related to experiences of black young men who are autistic within the criminal justice system. In her various roles, Joanna undertakes ghost-writing, proof reading and editing e-books, blogs, press releases, webcopy and chapter books and has delivered training, professional supervision and mentoring, mainly related to personal/professional growth and development.
As a funding bid writer for the last 12 years, Joanna developed Bids ‘n’ Pieces, positioning her well as bid writer for Awaken Genius.
Dr. Keith Kennedy
Dr Keith Davidson has 37 years of experience in the field of education.
He has been a secondary school subject teacher, school bursar, headteacher, ofsted inspector, education director, education consultant, conference speaker and is the author of the book entitled ‘The successful teacher’ (1998) and joint author with Dr June Alexis of two books entitled ‘Education; A pathway to success for black children’ (2012) and ‘The Power of the Mind: A new perspective on intellect and intelligence’.
Dr.Davidson is also the recipient of The Voice Newspaper Educator of the Decade Award in 1992 and The DfES School Governor of the Year Award in 2006 (London Region)
Dr Davidson offers his ongoing support for the education charity, Awaken Genius. He finds their educational goals to be capable of transforming the holistic development of students.
Awaken Genius’ methods for children’s learning are innovative, motivating and uniquely focused on arousing their latent potential to achieve excellence through their lives.
During Dr June's teaching profession, she has been an Inter School Examination Assessor for English and English Literature, an English and English Literature Examiner and Teacher Appraiser, delivering INSET Programmes for maintaining schools, academies and private schools. Dr June is a former Ofsted inspector for secondary schools and she has carried out a number of school inspections.
Dr June's first degree was a Bachelor of Education Honours Degree. She has a Master of Arts Degree in Educational Management and Administration as well as a Doctorate in Education.
In addition to this, Dr June has worked in the capacity of professional and subject mentor for teachers on the following national programmes for the award of the Qualified Teacher Status (QTS): Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE); Graduate Teacher Training Programme (GTTP); Teach First (TF) and Overseas Trained Teachers (OTT).
Currently, Dr June presents a variety of educational programmes in schools as well as in the community for parents, teachers and the wider community. In addition, she works with parents, pupils and schools to give guidance to pupils who are at risk of being permanently excluded.
Dr June has also co-authored two books: ‘Education: A pathway to success for Black Children’, and ‘The Power of the Mind: A new perspective on intellect and intelligence’.
Dr. June M Alexis
Luke Ireland is a Junior Law Partner with Awaken Genius.
He has seen first-hand the effect that disenfranchisement can have on students.
At Luke's secondary school, the pupils who were most vulnerable and needed support were sent to a completely separate 'isolation building' on the other side of his town. He feels that this is not only morally wrong, but simply ineffective.
Too often we have seen schools adopt ‘containment’ measures which only serve to polarise pupils and create a divide between those who are deemed ‘smart’ and those who are deemed ‘bad’. In reality, every child wants to learn, every child wants an opportunity to be successful.
Awaken Genius offers a chance to put this into action. It has been proven that a community-based approach can help ensure that the most vulnerable children are successful. Education is wider than just knowledge and is crucial to understanding broader issues such as common humanity and citizenship. A community-based approach places emphasis on this and ensures that instead of polarising vulnerable pupils, we engage them and help them attain knowledge as well as people skills. Together we can make a difference and he hopes that we can work together for a brighter future.
Junior Law Partner
Growing up as a child, Nathan was very much labelled as the troublesome one, yet he knew deep down that was never the true case. Now that he is older, he realises that he was a product of his environment as there were certain troublesome circumstances he had to face alone.
As Nathan grew older, he started to believe in himself a lot more. The ambition to achieve his idea of success at that time grew even stronger, as Nathan realised if he didn’t believe in himself, then who else would?
That self-belief then led me to creating and growing businesses whilst still in school. A certain business of mine attracted attention from the media and from that happening many doors opened for me.
Nathan believes that young people need nurturing, they need guidance and they need a platform that makes them realise they are in their 'own lane'. Individuality is what makes each person unique and standardised learning doesn’t highlight that, it doesn’t tailor young people’s individuality. He now knows that his unique abilities are a gift from God. However, standardised learning made Nathan rebel against the school system because he knew he didn’t have a standard mind. Nathan awakened his genius from an early age and made his own plan as to what he was going to do with his life.
Nathan's concern is those students who are permanently excluded from school and don’t know or don’t think that they have greatness within them? That’s why I believe he is a part of Awaken Genius.
Colin first went into teaching to put right the wrongs a heavily streamed-based education did to him. The school system told Colin that he was not good enough to do ‘O’ Levels, so he paid for them privately himself, and proved the system wrong!
Thirty years on, Colin still prides himself on being a classroom practitioner who believes that the curriculum must bend and adapt to the learning needs of pupils and not the other way around.
Too many pupils are told that their prior knowledge and experiences, their cultural and linguistic capital, is not relevant to the neo-liberal idea of what is classed as knowledge and achievement.
Colin believes in learning that is rooted in the interests, experiences and aspirations of young people and does not force feed them a diet of more of the same if they are rejected by the mainstream school.
He passionately believes everybody has a desire to enhance themselves – it is part of the human condition – we just need to connect with and nurture that seed in an inspiring, empathetic and engaging way.
Dr. Nicola Abbott is a Developmental Social Psychologist based at the Institute of Education, UCL. In her research, she is interested in tackling school bullying.
Dr. Nicola thinks that a particularly effective anti-bullying strategy is to help empower young people to intervene when they witness bullying; it was this same focus on empowerment that drew her to Awaken Genius. She liked that their school workshops take an active approach to building a sense of community and belonging. She thinks
this is important for all school pupils, but particularly pupils who are minoritized.
Dr. Nicola hosted an Awaken Genius event at her workplace and found the energy that Michael and his team brought was infectious! She looks forward to collaborating with Awaken Genius and seeing that energy brought into more-and-more schools.
Dr. Nicola Abbot
Debbie (Ama) Obeng Mental health first (MHFA) aid trainer
Debbie - Ama, is a trainee Physician Associate with extensive experience working with LAC and young people in gangs and / or at-risk of county lines and violence. She is very passionate about supporting young people, especially those who have been classified as ‘hard to reach’, who are often disempowered, disengaged and from disadvantaged backgrounds. Much of her work is focused on helping young people and young adults achieve their full potential, increasing positive aspirations and mental health wellbeing.
Throughout her mentoring and coaching career, she found a strong association between 'distorted aspirations' and the detrimental impacts it has on steering knife crime, county lines, employability and educational engagement instability, uncontrolled levels of mental illness with prevalent suicide rates.
It is with this in mind why she feels Awaken Genius is a vital. A primary to secondary school intervention set out to improve mental health and positive aspirations, by delivering an academic nurture curriculum that is inclusive and therapeutic based on a sense of a ‘community’.
Vicki believes with her professional background in both teaching and performing she could make an immediate, positive contribution towards the curriculum and teaching. She offers a combination of unique skills and competencies which she has developed through a lengthy and rewarding career. As a primary class teacher, she has always interwoven the creative arts into her lessons contributing to not only excellent academic results but also increasing engagement, enjoyment and a sense of comradery among my pupils.
Vicki’s professional Performing Arts background offers her access to a range of creative and innovative techniques that build pupil confidence, foster effective communication and most importantly reignite a love of learning. She offers strong communication skills and excellent knowledge of the National Curriculum and SATs paper requirements.
Vicki was attracted to Awaken Genius because of the clear vision, passion, kindness and energy of those who form the community. She believes that now (more than ever) we must fully invest in our young people as we begin to repair the damage caused by the pandemic. Mental health concerns, bereavement, isolation, loss of confidence in academic ability and social anxiety are affecting people more than ever. She truly believes Awaken Genius has the potential to create effective and long-lasting change for the most vulnerable in society, our children.
Vicki is a new mother herself and feels very strongly that no child should be given up on or left behind and she is excited to see the impact of Awaken Genius on children who may otherwise fall through the net at this critical time in their lives.
Academic- Creative Art facilitator
Academic- Creative Art facilitator
Olusola Adebiyi AKA Sola Story is a Creative Facilitator and Performance Storyteller with an international profile. He is a Programme Director, Creative Group facilitator, Mentor, Community Educator and Author, as well as developer of Awakening Creative Genius, a youth and adult development programme.
He is the founder and director of storytelling company Narrative Mindfulness Ltd and co-founder of Rebirth of The Griot, a monthly African Storytelling and Spoken
His mission involves a strong youth development and advocacy focus aimed at inspiring young people to grow into a deeper transformational knowledge of themselves and to have agency as a reciprocal part of a responsive community. He has designed,
co-designed and facilitated many group experiential learning programmes, usually involving arts, creativity and often wilderness practices. In his practice of working with children in schools in London, nationally and internationally, he draws upon techniques such as mindfulness, breath work (from martial arts), diverse creative arts , singing and drumming. His approach resonates perfectly with that of Awaken Genius and the possibility of impacting young people positively becomes exponentially greater when collaborating with people who have similar aims and supporting skill sets. The potential for youth development in Awaken Genius is limitless. This underlines the reason why he is so interested in Awaken Genius, as he sees the limitless potential of the organisation.
Amy Davis is a curriculum writer and Year 4 teacher. Passionate about education, she has spent 11 years teaching in both mainstream and special educational primary settings. Experience has given her a deep understanding of how children learn, allowing her to create engaging lesson content that makes education fun and accessible for all.
Working in Belfast, London and Barcelona has given Amy opportunities to teach children from a variety of cultures; however, she has been disappointed to see the system failing some children precisely because of their diverse needs and backgrounds, when they should have been celebrated and nurtured. This has fostered a fervent desire to see that all children's needs must be met and that no child should be disadvantaged.
Like the rest of the Awaken Genius team, Amy believes that all children have untapped potential. She is excited to help bring out their unique gifts by helping to develop our innovative curriculum. Amy is certain that, as a community, we can help children become creative and confident thinkers who believe in themselves, and who can work together as agents of change to build a better future. Every child matters—so let's help them see their own worth!
As an integrative therapist who focuses strongly on somatic experiencing and regulating the nervous system, I take pride in equipping individuals with self-regulation techniques. This empowers individuals with invaluable skills that will
help them manage triggers and stressors in all areas of life.
When successful mental health management underpins childhood education, the child will inevitably become more resilient, and confident and in turn, have more chances of succeeding at school. This is precisely what attracted me to Awaken Genius, as they too acknowledge that education can be interrupted or cut short
based on how children’s mental health is being managed, whether that be within
or outside of educational settings.
Awaken Genius gives children the support that they need, ranging from mental, physical, and emotional health. The strapline ‘Ubuntu’ captures the ethos that drives the organisation perfectly, which is compassion and oneness, thus incorporating this into education, which is precisely what young people need. Being a teacher myself that helps to regulate individuals’ autonomic nervous system, I know that not only is this life-changing, but that the brain literally expands when we learn, thus creating new neural pathways in the brain, rewiring, and correcting any previous pathways which may have hindered educational progress otherwise.
Creativity, movement, and successful mental health management allow the child to come back into the body and release residual distress from the past which may be hindering the logical thinking brain, thus keeping the child’s emotional brain (amygdala) online. It is imperative for the child to become regulated for them to academically progress to their full potential, all of which I myself and Awaken Genius support. Education is key in determining the trajectory of young people’s lives, without education it is easier to fall into criminality and other areas of harm. Awaken Genius are the catalyst for change for the upcoming generation and the world over.