Leon Wright & Tyson Holmes-Lewis had different personal experiences with education. Tyson, one of seven siblings, grew up with proud graduation photos on display at home and Leon was the first in his family to get a degree. They were brought together in their teens by a mentor who showed them the importance of having strong role models outside of family alone. For Leon, this support and guidance was important; “[my mentor] helped to steer me away from a life of negativity – just to see what one person could do through mentoring us as young men, went a long way and still is the blueprint of what we do today”.
Inspired by their own positive experiences of mentoring and their work in communities and education, Tyson & Leon, went on to found Mentivity in 2016, alongside Tyson’s older brother, Sayce. Mentivity is an inspirational mentoring and alternative education organisation, which helps young people to raise their aspirations, foster greater educational attainment and be the best version of themselves. The organisation is helping to shape hundreds of young lives and was recognised in 2019 as the ‘National Mentoring Organisation of the Year’.
Throughout their work with young people, Tyson & Leon often stress the importance of education and advise their mentees to consider going to university. For Tyson, it was important for him to be true to his own guidance “for me to speak to a young person and say ‘you can go to uni’ and if I haven’t done it myself… how can I give that advice […] to demand respect, it was important for us to get a qualification that was highly sought after”. For Leon, his desire to get a degree was solidified even further when his young daughter had a nursery graduation ceremony; “She said to me ‘daddy have you graduated?’… I sent off my personal statement two weeks later!”.
They both completed their undergraduate courses at Birkbeck in 2020, after studying part-time for four years. Tyson shared how the two supported each other to reach the finish line: “we both said to ourselves, there is no other alternative – we are graduating! That gave me the drive to keep going”.
In this interview, Tyson & Leon share the challenges and successes of running their own business, the way they work to inspire the younger generation and how they adapted to deliver their work online throughout the pandemic. They also give an insight into their studies at Birkbeck and how they kept each other on track and motivated.