Kensal Rise student flying high after smashing £60K fundraiser to get into flight school

A 23-year-old student from Kensal Rise has raised more than £70,000 to continue his pilot course after it was cancelled due to coronavirus.

Rasheed Graham, who grew up in Chamberlayne Mansions, was honoured to be the first Black student awarded a fully-funded scholarship worth £100,000 on the Aer Lingus Future Pilot Programme.

However, due to the pandemic the course was cut short and Rasheed was told he had to raise £60,000 if he wished to continue.

“It was heartbreaking because I saw it as I had the golden ticket and it was ripped away from me through no fault of my own,” he said.

“I couldn’t really just dwell on the situation and I just had to find another avenue and make the dream happen.”

The former Furness Primary School and Capital City Academy pupil created a campaign video, set up a #Rash2FlightSchool GoFundMe page to raise the money and smashed his target within a month.

The campaign caught traction on social media and was featured on BBC Panorama’s documentary Has Covid Stolen my Future? on October 26.

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The documentary helped Rasheed raise £40,000 on the day it aired, peaking at £10,000 in one minute, which he said was “surreal”.

Growing up in a low-income, working class and single-parent family, Rasheed said he had to “jump and dodge barriers” which few people in the aviation industry face as many come from affluent backgrounds due to the extreme cost of training.

Currently, only seven per cent of pilots across the world are Black, Asian, or minority ethnic and the UK figure is close to one per cent.

“I’ve had to develop that fighting spirit whenever I faced an obstacle, I just had to overcome it. I’ve learnt to weather the storm.

“And whatever opportunities I do receive, I don’t take them for granted,” he added.

Rasheed hopes to become a commercial pilot and a mentor for inner city youth who wish to pursue a professional career.

“Wherever you want to do, it’s definitely possible,” he said. “People are going to try and deter you, say you can’t do it and I can say from personal experience, it’s the complete opposite. Whatever you put your mind to, the body will follow.

“So just go pursue what you want to do.”

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