Being judged on the colour of her skin was always in the back of Mya Bentley’s mind. The undergraduate in Law says it sapped confidence in a way that other forms of disadvantage had not.
Despite being from a low-income, single-parent household, it never stopped Mya from being able to achieve; but being of mixed-race made her feeI excluded and undermined her confidence.
“On many occasions I made remarks to my mother about feeling excluded; I’d say “why didn’t you call me something like Lucy or Sophie” as so many teachers would mispronounce my name.
“Until recently I have always lacked confidence when going to job interviews or applying for opportunities as I felt that I would be judged for my skin colour.”
First Class grades
Mya’s situation underscores the importance of the Anthony Walker Pathways initiative, launched this month to support students of minority backgrounds into high-flying careers in Law.
She is among dozens of legal hopefuls from Liverpool and Manchester who have secured a scholarship from the Crown Prosecution Service, the Anthony Walker Foundation, Liverpool John Moores University and Salford University.
Currently in her second year at LJMU School of Law, Mya, from Fazakerley, Liverpool, decided during A Levels that being a lawyer was her goal and with First Class grades behind her, only her own self-esteem has been holding her back.
“Achieving the Anthony Walker Bursary is massive for me because I never expected to make it past the first stage but I have proved that I am capable of trying and succeeding regardless of my colour.
“The benefits of this scheme are really overwhelming,” effuses Mya who along with fellow LJMU Law student Elijah Bailey, now has the chance to observe prosecutors in court, shadow a CPS Senior District Crown Prosecutor, complete a two-week work placement and pocket £5,000 towards her university fees.
The scholarship scheme runs in memory of Anthony Walker who was murdered in a racially-motivated attack in Huyton, Merseyside in 2005. Anthony, 18, was a Black British student in the second year of his A-levels when he was killed and had wanted to go to University to study law.
Grace Ononiwu CBE, Director of Legal Services at the CPS, said: “You do not have to be white and wealthy to become a lawyer. The Criminal Justice System needs people of all backgrounds so that it is truly representative of the people we seek to achieve justice for.”
Professor Carlo Panara, Director of the School of Law, said: “Great congratulations Mya and Elijah on securing these prestigious scholarships. The School of Law is incredibly proud of this achievement and to them goes my wish of a bright future career in criminal prosecution”.
Help stop racism
Mya, who described Anthony Walker as “an inspiration to me for a long time” says she now wants to promote equality and help put a stop to racism and discrimination as a whole.
“I believe that a career in criminal law will make this possible for me,” she said.