When Imani Jeffers (U15) first arrived at Churchill as an undergraduate 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 had felt comfortable, supported and safe thanks to the relaxed environment, peaceful location and diverse student population making it a haven for students of all backgrounds.

Imani is now working as an author, music artist and creative in London and her mission is simple: to give back and help others to achieve. She is particularly passionate about education and encouraging those from underrepresented backgrounds to excel. 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 of £50 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 a double cash gift to 17 winners, and was also able to offer academic mentoring support to an additional 21 students thanks to the support of a pool of mentor partners.

Imani decided to approach 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. The ISLA Gift Cambridge at Churchill College is a new annual financial award designed to support and encourage students of Black Caribbean and/or Black African descent who are either pursuing undergraduate study at Churchill College or are current offer-holders. In future years the College is also hoping to extend the award to students from schools and colleges who partner with Churchill through its outreach/widening participation work and are of Black African or Black African-Caribbean heritage. The over-arching aim of the award is to help address the historic underrepresentation of Black students at Cambridge University and to encourage more applications to Churchill and Cambridge. Winners will receive cash awards of £100–£300 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. Awardees will also have access to informal mentoring from Churchill alumni.

Churchill was a place where I felt comfortable, supported and safe as an undergraduate student at Cambridge because of the relaxed environment, peaceful location and diverse student population, making it a haven for students of all backgrounds. I also believe that the College’s historic championing of inclusion is another reason why the ISLA Gift Cambridge is best seated here. The College supports a range of bursaries including the Winston Churchill Top-Up Bursaries, a token of Churchill’s commitment to encouraging those from all backgrounds to succeed in their studies at Cambridge. This additional financial support greatly helped me personally as a student and is one of the key reasons, I believe, that I was able to focus on my studies, rather than worry about finances, and to eventually graduate with a First Class degree.

The College has launched a crowdfunding appeal to raise the £3,000 needed to fund this new initiative and make it happen! We have some exciting rewards to thank everyone who supports the ‘ISLA Gift Cambridge’ appeal. Click on the link below to visit the project crowdfunding page:

ISLA Gift crowfunding page