Sam is a former Darwen Aldridge Community Academy student.

“I like to have a goal in mind with everything I do, that way I can work hard to achieve it. Not having a goal – that’s soul-destroying.

I’m from Blackburn originally, but read Chemistry at Corpus Christi, Oxford, and am now at Hertford College, also Oxford, studying for a further MSc in Pharmacology – I enjoy applying the very fundamental chemistry into a biological setting. After more than four years, Oxford feels like my second home, but back when I was at school it was like this magic bubble, a place where only the elite got to go. I certainly didn’t expect to be in this position, but it certainly didn’t happen by chance and is a result of extremely hard work and resilience.

It was Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA) that first put the idea in my head that Oxford was a realistic option for me. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to learning at DACA; they know when to push you to work harder, and how to offer support when you’re struggling. The Principal knew how to bring out my potential and he gave me the confidence to apply. At DACA there’s an entrepreneurial ethos that isn’t just an idea: the whole school lives it.

When I was sixteen I won a National Academy Excellence Award. As well as a cash prize I had a mini internship at British Sugar in Norfolk, where I got to see how all areas of the business were run, from farming, to chemical engineering, to financial management. I think this was what planted the seed for me, and made me hungry to keep achieving.

Post-graduation, I’m looking to get a secure trainee patent attorney position in the area of chemistry / pharmaceuticals. It’s really competitive but that’s what I live for. The entrepreneurial ethos they taught us at DACA translates just as well into everyday life. Resilience, determination, confidence – you can’t go far wrong.

Be better today than you were yesterday. That’s my ethos.”