How We Got Here

upthegreatness was originally conceptualised during the 2020 coronavirus lockdown as a online magazine to celebrate silenced greatness. Our original purpose was to bring attention to people who were achieving great things but their journeys were being overshadowed because of other people's paths being perceived as "greater". However, by the time it was actualised, upthegreatness became an organisation dedicated to fostering greatness in young people by hosting discussion series and conducting school visits. So, how did we get here?

Two moments come to define the evolution of upthegreatness: the creation of HutchandWani and the establishing of Old Whitgiftian Mentoring. 

HutchandWani was a video podcast founded by Marley Hutchings and Oluwani Akintunde in April 2020. The two of them created the show as a means of amplifying the debates that they were having over the phone throughout lockdown hence their tagline, private conversations shared with the public. The purpose of sharing the conversations with the world was so that they could initiate informed dialogues as viewers would interact with the vodcast on social media. For Oluwani, this experience was enlightening as it helped him to discover his passion for connecting with people. It also taught him that whilst he was good on camera, he may be better served by engaging directly with the people that he wished to inspire. Though successful, HutchandWani only aired two episodes as Oluwani had to return to his final year studies. By the time he completed those studies a year later, Hutch and Wani were in two different places as Marley was succeeding as a DJ whilst, Oluwani was looking to implement the theory he had studied over the course of his undergraduate degree into his professional life. 

Between completing his degree and being selected as the Old Whitgiftian Mentoring Lead, Oluwani spent some time volunteering with CoachBright, a social mobility charity. In his role with them, he coached pupils in English Literature at an all-girls state school in north-west London. He enjoyed the role and discovered the direct impact he had been searching for ever since he filmed his first episode of HutchandWani. However, the impermanency of the role and the infrequency of contact with the coachees left him desiring more. Thus, he turned to volunteering his services as a mentor to students at his former secondary school. The school obliged, inviting him to start in April 2022.

Upon his start, the role of Old Whitgiftian Mentoring Lead existed in neither name nor description. Therefore to make his new role sustainable, he had to take on the task of defining what the role entailed and how it was to be executed. Unlike the role of teacher, the role could not be defined by working hours. A mentor was closer to being an older sibling than a teacher. He was supposed to listen but, not always advise. To ask what and how, rather than why. Most importantly, he had to always be present. A role like that can be challenging to quantify. As he dealt with more mentees, he realised that there were some common sentiments being echoed by the pupils that he wholeheartedly disagreed with: the idea that greatness was only for the few and that academic success outweighed all other success. It was at this point that he realised the form that upthegreatness was going to take. He felt that it was one thing for him, as a first class graduate, to repeatedly tell his mentees that there were other types of success that were equally great. However, it would be far more effective if he were to invite people who had achieved those other types of success to talk to his mentees about their journeys. By interacting with a number of them, it would prove to the students that it was possible to achieve other types of success and that greatness was attainable for all.

Oluwani's experiences as the co-founder and co-star of HutchandWani influenced his willingness to accept and shape the Old Whitgiftian Mentoring position. By producing the show, he improved his ability to articulate himself clearly and concisely so that his colleagues could understand what he envisioned. This skill would enable him to lead and connect with people. Through understanding his ability to relate to students and to be trusted by his peers, he was able to successfully organise an eight-panel upthegreatness discussion series at the school.