There are few schools with as storied a history as Eton College. Founded by King Henry VI in 1440, it has become a byword for success in government, business, the arts, and many other fields over its long history.
The school boasts 19 prime ministers, hundreds of famous generals, authors, business tycoons, and actors (one of the most recent is Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne) among its graduates. Founded originally as a school for poor boys, it later developed a reputation for schooling the sons of the rich and the royalty.
Eton is not exactly the type of school you would expect a boy from Byker Primary, a school in a disadvantaged area of Newcastle, to attend. As a matter of fact, Byker Primary had never had a graduate attend Eton, but now it will. In 2017, Eton will welcome Tyrese George, a Byker Primary student, to its hallowed halls.
Tyrese has gotten a lot of recognition lately for his feat of gaining a scholarship to Eton, and rightly so. He lives in a poor area of Byker, and he comes from a single parent family. His school has an average grade per A level entry of D plus.
Another problem from a boy of his background is the tuition at Eton, which runs £35,000 a year — a sum that was out of reach for his mother to afford.
Dreaming big and hard work pays
However, Tyrese decided that he wanted to dream big, and try for admission to Eton. He watched a CBBC program on the school, and he decided to go for it. He studied hard, prepared for the entrance examinations and interviews, took them and scored high enough to win a scholarship. The letter from Eton praised him as a “good all-rounder” who scored among the top 50 percent in its tests.
It was a magical moment, and he has been celebrated in several news stories for his achievement. And why not? Tyrese George set his sights high, ignoring the facts of his upbringing and environment, worked hard, and achieved his goal.
It is a wonderful example for other young men of colour. There is no denying that the deck is stacked against them in some ways. A lot of young black males in the UK come from disadvantaged backgrounds, growing up in single parent families in poor neighborhoods where drugs and crime are rampant, and they have the added problem that their educational opportunities are limited.
This can create a defeatist mindset where people don’t see any way out of their circumstances. They see only limited horizons everywhere they look, and so they can’t imagine a place for themselves in the wider world.
Not Tyrese George. He was willing to imagine himself at a school where prime ministers are educated. He did not accept that he had to limit his horizons, and he took on the challenge of striving for something greater. He dreamed big.
We can only wish him the best as he starts his journey in 2017 at Eton. His mother says she doesn’t worry about him fitting in, because he is a friendly, self-confident boy who knows how to apply himself, to set goals and achieve them, and not to let his circumstances determine what his future will be.
With those qualities, it’s a good bet people will be hearing great things about Tyrese George for many years to come. And his neighbors in Byker and around the UK should look up to him as someone to emulate.