They say your days in college are some of the best times of your life. I remember hearing that when I was younger, running between classes, cramming for my A-levels, trying to stay out of detention – surely this wasn’t what they were talking about? I was so eager to achieve more, to see the world and make my mark that I never stopped to appreciate what was right in front of me. Looking back at it all now, I’d do anything to go back to those golden days, and with Penny Appeal’s newest and most ambitious project to date, I will be.
The best of my formative years were spent in Wakefield College. It was there that my teachers, Tony and Ron, organised my first-ever work experience, giving me a chance to look beyond my own horizons and dream a little bigger. It’s no understatement to say the college has made me who I am today. That work experience became a job, that job inspired me to set up a business, and that business led to Penny Appeal; a twice-Guinness World Record holding, multi-award winning humanitarian agency, credited as one of the fastest growing and most impactful charities in its sector.
Enclosed within the grounds of Thornes Park, one of Wakefield’s most beautiful green spaces, the college has an incredible 150-year history of educating the students of Wakefield. Ever since graduating I’ve kept a close relationship with my teachers and the school’s board, and in 2011 I was honoured when they nominated me as an alumnus for a prestigious ‘Hall of Fame’ Association of Colleges award. That year, I was guest of honour at the college’s graduation ceremony, handing out certificates to the graduating class and addressing the students with some words of wisdom.
As the years have passed by, much of my old campus in Thornes Park has fallen into disrepair and Wakefield College has moved most of its operations closer to the city centre. When I heard that they had listed the site for sale, I pounced on the opportunity to return to the college that had given me so much.
Walking through the building on our first survey of the site brought back a flood of memories. These were the same corridors where I dreamed up ideas to move the world, and by the time I left the building I was convinced that these could be the same corridors where those dreams can continue to become a reality each and every day.
Fast forward a few months and I was honoured to sign the papers officially transferring ownership of Wakefield College’s Thornes Park Campus to Penny Appeal, where it will serve as our new international headquarters. The move represents the culmination of my dreams as an entrepreneur and humanitarian, and builds on the deep roots that we have laid down within this city.
Sam Wright, Wakefield College Principal, Adeem Younis and the President of the Association of Colleges, Lord Willis.
Representing Wakefield College back in 2011. Won the prestigious national ‘Hall of Fame’ Association of Colleges Award.
As we approach our ten-year anniversary, the Penny Appeal story has come full circle. After consistently delivering on an international and national level, we are now redoubling our efforts in create a local footprint in Wakefield, resisting calls to move to major cities, and choosing instead to invest into the infrastructure and communities of Wakefield. I know the value and power of local investment. I am a product of it. Just as Wakefield College invested in me, Penny Appeal is investing back. Our commitment will ensure job creation across the region, as well as a sustained contribution to the economy of Wakefield and its surrounding areas.
The new site will be the platform to take our vision for humanitarianism to the next level. Just like Tony and Ron did for me, I hope that the work we do from this revived campus will expand the horizons of generations of young people, helping them dream a little more and helping to turn those dreams into realities too.
I can’t wait to share with you all that we have planned for the Thornes Park campus; the site will be a unique landmark unlike anything else in Yorkshire, a cultural hub with services for local communities that is set to inspire the world. Stay tuned for more updates and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!