So how impressive is this? In between meeting a full workload of A level preparation, and hectic theatre commitments for the Christmas show, one of our students is now waiting for her work to hit the printing press and get out there to make a difference. How? And why? Well Tegan Harris has produced a small but very impressive book which will hopefully be making its way very soon into worldwide markets and contributing to a wider understanding of dementia. Impressive it is, as this project has been driven entirely by Tegan herself, arising from her involvement over a few years with a charity called Alzheimer’s Dementia Support (ADS). When the challenge of an EPQ came along, Tegan knew that she wanted to commit her energies to ‘something that made a difference’, and approached the charity with her idea: to produce a book to explain this complex, challenging and distressing disease to youngsters. Recognising – clearly – both the need and the quality of this young volunteer, ADS immediately backed her, providing specific training, information and support for her project. Like her they recognised a profound gap in the provision for wider understanding of this horrible condition, and, in particular, the dearth of information for children. Interestingly, the nearest connection for Tegan to Alzheimer’s is a neighbour of her grandmother, and in terms of the charity, her volunteer work involves group outings and entertainment that gives carers a rest.
So, decision made, charity support in place (including some funding from the local council for the cause), what about the difficulties of her task? Having made the decision to aim her text at children between 8 and 11, loads of research followed, with lots of information and support material supplied by the charity itself. Key decisions were made, but it began, she tells me, with a simple document in which she recorded her initial plans, ideas, and intentions. Bullet points morphed into mind-maps, key ideas were compressed into key sentences that defined the book, and the hard work of writing the text began. ‘Useless at drawing,’ (her words), she knew exactly what she wanted to bring the text alive. With more research, she found a site that provided images that she could actually manipulate, and settled on Animaker, funding the purchase of rights for commercial use via the council grant. Finally, the actual artefact took on a physical reality, whilst at every turn she sought feedback on what advice was Alzheimer’s-appropriate from the specialists, so that the material remained relevant. A discount was negotiated on the actual print run, and again the council grant covered this. The book now awaits its official ISBN and formal publication. It has been formatted also as an eBook, and marketing strategies are already in the mix. Impressive, as I said.
When I commend the incredible learning curve that she has been on, I am not surprised to hear that her aim is to go into business: ‘My summer holiday was practically dedicated to this book’, she tells me. With A levels in Media, Theatre and Business it is, of course, hardly a surprise that Tegan is very much aiming at an industry career herself. With an offer from Exeter to study for a degree in ‘Marketing with Management’, it is pleasing to hear that this is the uni with one of the best graduate prospects, and includes a year’s placement in industry. She is very clearly on her way it seems, and all of this is running alongside a very demanding role in the Christmas show. Intriguingly, Tegan came to Hurtwood following 8 committed years at theatre school, and has really wrestled with the appeal of both career trajectories.
It is only as we are about to part that she tells me, following the production of this book, and through a connection of the charity, she was recently asked to address the graduate students of Imperial College, London. That she did so with pleasure and confidence is testimony to the amazing abilities of this talented and hard-working 17-year old. Well done, Tegan – Hurtwood is very proud of you.