01 Dec

Special Guest Speaker - Kate Goldman-Toomey

On Thursday 30th November, we welcomed parents, governors and VIPs to KEHS for Speech Day – a celebration of this year’s phenomenal GCSE results, and the hard work that made those results possible. Our special guest speaker was Kate Goldman-Toomey, an alumna from the Class of 1996 and the Director of Partnerships & Philanthropy at UNICEF UK.

Kate began by congratulating the students on their collective and individual successes. When she attended her own Speech Day, she would never have imagined that she would be returning as the guest speaker. Speech Day is one of the many traditions that have not changed since her time at KEHS, though there are equally many things that have developed over time. When she was a pupil, there was no email or mobiles; if you wanted to meet your friends in town, you made a plan and you stuck to it.

After much discussion with her parents about her future, Kate chose to study what she enjoyed and read Ancient History at the University of Nottingham. Beyond that, Kate was also fascinated by business and was sure that she would ultimately embark upon a career in marketing. To that end, she used her networks to get as much work experience as she could whilst she completed her degree. Most notably, Kate completed an internship in PR with AOL, where she would fax press releases about the internet to local media, because so few of them had an email address!

Despite her hard work and perseverance, Kate kept narrowly missing out on the graduate schemes she wanted. After a chance conversation at a birthday party with another Old Edwardian, Kate was introduced to the possibility of a career in the charity sector. Kate had always been interested in voluntary work, but she thought this was predominantly for students and retirees. Her friend not only explained the variety of careers within the Third Sector, but introduced her to specialist recruiters who could help her find her best role. She has never looked back.

Kate has focussed her career on working for extraordinary organisations that respect and protect the rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable and marginalised people. Today, Kate is the Director of Partnerships & Philanthropy at UNICEF UK. Her role is to unlock the power of the private sector for good, helping direct resources where they are most needed and ensuring responsible practice. Kate manages a team of 75 people, who bring in a total of around £45 million a year. Together, they are helping to ensure that children’s rights are protected and respected, focussing particularly on the most vulnerable and marginalised children across the globe.

Academic achievements are important, but they do not stand alone. Being a successful human being requires personal qualities, the ability to learn from your experiences and knowing your own values. Being able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off is just as important as academic success.

Equally important is your moral compass. We are all citizens of a shared planet. No matter how big or insurmountable the challenge seems, Kate knows that she must do whatever she can. This has become her North Star.

Kate finished by sharing some final thoughts. Don’t be daunted by the challenge. Cut through the chatter. If not you, then who? If not now, then when? Galvanise yourself to action, hold true to your purpose and make something the best it can be. And don’t take life too seriously – it is too short. Smile, laugh and have fun. Kate left the audience with a final quote from Mary Oliver’s 'The Summer Day': “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”