student life

How you can #HelpAmber with her education

Amber Kirk-Ford, education, funding, Chloe Smith, Kettle Mag
Written by Chloe Smith

I’ve caught up with book blogger and YouTuber Amber Kirk-Ford, also known as book blogger The Mile Long Bookshelf, to chat to her about #HelpAmber, a campaign to help raise the funding for her to complete her A-levels next year. Amber has had to resort to crowdfunding her further education as the government won’t fund it because she attends an online school due to her mental illnesses.

Her campaign and crowdfunder really highlight just how much the education system needs to change – as no one should have to crowdfund their education. However, they also show just how determined and talented Amber is, and I hope that she receives the full funding so that she can complete her A-levels – she really deserves it.

Hi Amber! Thanks so much for taking the time out to talk to us at Kettle. Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi Chloe! My name is Amber, I’m 16 and I blog about books over at The Mile Long Bookshelf. I have an unhealthy obsession with pizza and macarons, and there’s nothing I like better than curling up with a good book and escaping from the world. Nearly three years ago I developed chronic anxiety with panic disorder, emetophobia and agoraphobia. Also, I’m not very good at talking about myself.

Can you tell us about #HelpAmber?

Because of my illnesses, I can’t physically go to a regular college, and that means the only thing I can do if I want to study A Levels is go to InterHigh, a school based entirely online. Unfortunately, it costs a lot of money which neither I nor my parents have. #HelpAmber is the fundraising campaign I launched to try and raise £4,500 to cover the fees – it hasn’t been up for very long and we’re already over halfway!

I think it’s an amazing cause, and highlights how much the education system needs to change so that an education, and further education, can be available to all. Can you tell us about your experience of InterHigh, an online school? What’s your usual school day like?

I completely agree. Not everyone fits into the same box, and what works for one person might not work for another. InterHigh is amazing because it’s so accessible. It accepts students from all over the world from all kinds of different backgrounds and people with or without disabilities.

When I was studying for my IGCSEs there – back then, my place was funded by my old school, if you’re wondering – my typical day looked like this: I’d wake up at 9am or earlier, ready for lessons to start at 9:15. I would have about two and a half hours of lessons with a break, and then afterwards I would write up any notes and start homework immediately if it was urgent. One of my favourite things about InterHigh is that you upload your homework assignments and the teacher marks them really quickly. I don’t know why I like that, but I do – maybe because I’m impatient!

You studied your GCSES with InterHigh – how did they go? (Good luck with your results!)

Thank you! I think they went okay. Maths was horrendous but the others weren’t bad. The actual process of taking the exams was so difficult, though, because I had to sit them at my old school which is a pretty triggering place.

The response to #HelpAmber has been amazing – congratulations on hitting 50% of your goal already! How has everything #HelpAmber has gone so far?

Thank you, I really didn’t expect it to get this far at all! It’s been absolutely insane. In the last few days I’ve been featured in The Independent, I gave my first live TV interview on Sky News which was SO nerve-wracking, there’s an interview lined up with the MailOnline soon and now I’m here! The support really has been mind-blowing and I can’t get over it. Can you tell? People I’ve never even met are trying their best to make my education happen!

What A-levels are you planning to study, after receiving the funding?

English Literature and Media Studies.

What are your aspirations for the future – university? What are you hoping to have a career in?

I’m not sure about university yet. I think it depends on, once again, money and my anxiety. We’ll see! I’d love to work in the media. It’s my dream.

Thanks so much again for talking to us, finally – do you have anything you’d like to say?

No problem, thank you for having me! I’d like to end with my thoughts on the education system. Not everyone fits in the same box, so why is there one main route that everyone is expected to follow? And why on earth have I had to resort to crowdfunding so I can continue my education? No one should have to do that.

It’s 2015. I’ve been very lucky to receive lots of support, but what if I hadn’t? I think the government needs to step up and take care of people like they’re supposed to so no one else has to raise money to receive an education just because they have a mental illness. If you haven’t donated, please do. And if you can’t donate, please share the link to my Crowdfunder. It truly means the world.

Thanks again, Amber – best of luck, and I hope you raise the funding!

If you’d like to donate to Amber’s crowdfunder, you can do so here, and have your say about the state of the education system in the comments section below.