Harry Beard is a Diploma Programme (DP) at Bedford School in England and the co-founder of Prospect 100, which helps elevate young people’s passions by providing them with the opportunities they need to succeed. He reflects on how the DP allowed him to chart his own path pursuing entrepreneurship and supported his lifelong learning journey.
By Harry Beard, Co-Founder Prospect 100
“Our generation is pursuing their passions in a truly unique way and my time at school allowed me to realise this”
When choosing to study the Diploma Programme (DP), I had no intention of going to university. Studying wasn’t my passion. As soon as the school day finished, I found myself doing the things I was passionate about, this would range from designing and selling t-shirts online through to running social media campaigns for businesses and organisations. I was always more fascinated by doing what I considered to be, “real things”, working on projects where there was physical evidence of my work at the end of it, whether that was a physical product or an event. This all started for me at age 14, when I started to really realise that online platforms can allow us to do whatever we want, be whoever we want, learn anything we want―all it took was a bit of passion and dedication. I was able to prove to myself that selling t-shirts while I was in class to people living in U.S. or helping market an event that sold out the O2 arena was possible for someone of my age to do. Whenever I spoke with my parents, they didn’t fully understand, so I was quite excited to realise that this was a new and different opportunity―yet often when I spoke about what I learned in lessons they would say, “I remember learning that”. To be learning the same thing that my parents did 30 years ago always confused me, so by doing something that was new to them, I became way more excited about that, than I did about school work at that time.
Even without the desire to pursue further education, what I loved about the IB compared to A Levels was the fact that I could do a wide range of subjects to maximise what I believe would be my last few years in education. At the same time, I could also focus on doing subjects that I thought would provide me value long-term rather than subjects that I could get the best grades in. I studied theatre, but I’m by no means a thespian. I studied French, but I was the worst in my class by a long way. These subjects weren’t a means to getting into university for me, they were a chance for personal development. I feel the IB really epitomises this. To be able to have added hours in the week devoted to creativity, activity, service (CAS) really allowed me to focus on real life opportunities. The CAS hours of the week were some of my best memories at school. On top of this, the opportunity to work on an internal assessment (IA) for every subject meant I could really tailor the course to my specific interests, and that was amazing.Again, I find theatre tremendously boring to watch. Studying Stanislavski was not much fun for me. However, my IA allowed me to study more alternative practitioners―I ended up discovering Grotowski and have since become an advocate for his work. For me, IB was just perfect for someone who felt that education is about way more than simply studying subjects you know you can get your best grades in.
The IAs really allowed for me to shape the programme to my interests. Being able focus on streetwear culture in English or being able to look at the business behind the French social media app Zen.Ly in class wouldn’t have been possible with another exam board, and it definitely kept me engaged as a student. Speaking to my friends studying A Level French, who were studying French literature, I wasn’t left envious of them at all. They can definitely speak better French than me, and certainly know how to conjugate verbs more accurately than me―but what we learned about French culture from the businesses native to France, to music in France; whenever I’m now in France I get a lot of enjoyment from talking about those topics and surprising my French friends with my knowledge of local musicians like PNL and Black M.
“For me, IB was just perfect for someone who felt that education is about way more than simply studying subjects you know you can get your best grades in.”
Since leaving school, I think the skills I developed in theatre have been really beneficial for me as well. Many students would go into a course like theatre with a few presumptions: you spend the whole time being practical and it’s not a, “real”, subject. But this is simply not true. Theatre quickly became my most academically challenging subject―the amount of theory work was very surprising. Studying this subject allowed me to develop skills that were to be expected, particularly when it comes to presenting. Having finished the course I often reflect and feel that actually this subject made me super analytical and made me think about communication a lot too. It was a really beneficial experience―it’s a subject I wouldn’t have studied had I chosen to do A Level.
After finishing school, I co-founded a company called, ‘Prospect 100’, to help young people take their passions to the next level. Whether that be going to your dream university, working for a global company or starting solo―we curate events, competitions and will soon start to link ambitious young talent with amazing companies―all of this provides opportunities to ensure young people can pursue their passion in a really mature way. Whether that be by partaking in a hackathon supported by a global tech brand or winning mentorship with a music industry titan to guide you with the production and promotion of your first album.
IB definitely reinforced how important it is to follow your passions for me, but it also allowed me to realise that everyone has different ambitions. Many IB students at school would regularly talk about getting the best score to get into the best universities, however I had many friends discussing the grades they needed to get their apprenticeships of choice. With a truly international board you get real diversity of thought with many people having very different life goals―it was amazing to be surrounded by. To now be able to help young people fulfill the first steps of achieving their life goals is unreal. I think our generation is pursuing their passions in a truly unique way and my time at school allowed me to realise this. When students are uploading music to Spotify and gaining millions of streams, it’s easy to see that we are a generation facing rapid change and it’s super hard for us to find relevant content, opportunities and mentors to ensure we can make the best choices for ourselves, so we wanted to really help with that.
“To now be able to help young people fulfill the first steps of achieving their life goals is unreal.”
When I was 14, I was really fortunate to listen to a talk given by Miles Young at my school. Miles was the global CEO for Ogilvy and Mather and is now the Warden of New College, Oxford. During this talk, Miles presented this idea of, ‘EQ’, something I had never heard of before. It really made me question whether education is all about gaining the best grades or about really understanding yourself, the world around you and developing emotional intelligence. Honestly, had it not been for that talk I’m not too sure if I would have the mindset I do today. I probably wouldn’t have chosen IB―I would have taken A Levels studying 3 subjects I felt I could get the best grades in and tried to get into the university perceived to be the best that I could achieve.
Having been so inspired by the talk, I asked if my school could put me in touch with Miles and since he has been a hugely supportive and influential figure for me.
I think we live in a, ‘just do it’, generation. The barriers to starting anything have been lifted. It’s cheaper than ever to start a business. A piece of advice I was given by a friend in America, Jaylen Bledsoe, was, “When you’re young, what’s the worst that can happen?” If a business venture fails, you will have learned so much for doing it, and people will only commend you for trying. You would rather fail now when failure can help to shape your future. I guess when we’re young, we’re probably way more fearless than when we are older and have a bit more to lose. As I mentioned earlier, I get way more excited when I’m learning about something current, so I found a lot of my best moments of education and inspiration came from me talking to other young people who are leading the way. Whether that’s Jaylen Bledsoe, Nadya Okamoto or Harry Hambley. These are young people who are leading the way and should have a stronger voice in education, I feel. I am so inspired by them. They all opened my eyes and mind in some way, and their advice has provided me with a lot of benefit. One of our centrals aims as an organisation is to really help get their voices out to more students. They don’t need to be at the centre of education, but to hear how industries are changing from the mouths of those who are the ones forcing and driving change, I think, is super beneficial. Our generation has so many tools at our disposal, allowing us to learn, create, publish and promote for free―we need to encourage more young people to make the most of everything that surrounds us. We shouldn’t take it for granted―every previous generation wishes they had the opportunities we have to pursue our passions.
Harry Beard completed the IB Diploma Programme (DP) at Bedford School in England. He is now the co-founder of Prospect 100, which helps elevate young people’s passions by providing them with the opportunities they need to succeed. His organisation has received support from a number of industry leaders and global brands, from Google through to Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones.
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