Student Stories

Lauren Johnston - Heriot Watt University

“I wish I’d been on this Make Your Mark with Susan Room® school five years ago,” begins Lauren Johnston, Master’s student in Business Strategy, Leadership and Change at Heriot-Watt University.

“I’ve been trying to overcome my anxiety for a long time, and it’s prevented me taking opportunities that I probably should have. I’d not do things because I thought, ‘no, I don’t have the skills for this, or I’ve not got the knowledge for that’ - when I did. Now I kick myself because I wish I’d done half those things. So, I genuinely wish I’d had the learnings I took from this five years ago because, with these tools and skills, I’d have got to this more confident place a wee bit quicker – I’d have taken advantage of opportunities much earlier.”

The entire Make Your Mark experience has been transformative for Lauren, who is now set on changing the lives of others by pursuing her career in training or teaching. Having been tutoring high school pupils for nearly five years, Lauren walked away from this programme with an entirely different perspective on that role - some may even say she discovered her purpose.


“I don’t know how she’s done it, but Susan’s changed the way I think, the way I process things. I realise now that tutoring isn’t just a job, what I’m doing can change someone’s life. Susan’s shown me the impact you can make on someone by simply helping them is extraordinary. I’ve decided that’s what I want to do because I find that so rewarding.”


Now Lauren has a clear message for all those young people she interacts with. “I tell them don’t ever think you can’t. If you can do it, then do it. If you want to do it then there’s a clear reason you want to – just do it and get whatever support you need.”


And Lauren explains they won’t always find that support within the school gates because the type of learning she experienced with Susan just isn’t taught there.


“This programme is one of those things that can give young people the belief to do things. They just don’t give you that confidence and drive at school. It’s a shame it is that way, but they don’t – they’re extremely focused on the now. At my age, without this experience, I would never have realised what I discovered. That’s why I’ve become an Ambassador because there’s a need and demand for young people to find and unlock their actual potential.”


As a Make Your Mark Ambassador Lauren will share her experiences of the programme and help more young people benefit from it. “This programme can change someone’s life,” says Lauren. “Not just their professional life, it can help them in everything they do.”


As an Ambassador, Lauren is keen to ensure more young people get opportunities like this and take advantage of them. But she also wants to help these young people realise, opportunities rarely fall into your lap – you have to actively seek them out and take advantage of them.


“Just securing a place on this programme taught me a valuable lesson because I got this opportunity through my network - something I built. I applied for an internship with a brilliant voluntary programme and built a relationship with its organiser. She then nominated me for this Make Your Mark with Susan Room® student school. I’m so grateful for that relationship and that she opened up this opportunity to me.”


Indeed, Lauren has taken so much from this Make Your Mark programme, she’s now paying it forward as an Ambassador by helping to make it available to more students. “Going through this programme’s content – it’s just brilliant. It’s quite simple, Susan has literally changed my life in a way that I never thought someone could do. Now I want more young people to feel like this - confident, empowered and really driven to do something.”


Lauren Johnston lives just outside Edinburgh and attends Heriot-Watt University. She completes her Master’s in ‘Business Strategy, Leadership and Change’ in September 2021. Her dream career is one in training or teaching, where she can share her experiences and make a positive impact. She became a Make Your Mark Ambassador having participated in Winter School 2020/21.

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"The highlight for me has been learning that it’s okay to say ‘no’. That we need to say ‘no’ sometimes. We can’t please everyone and do everything all the time. Learning that has set me up so well – I realise I’m being so much more productive and effective."

— Lauren Johnston, Heriot Watt University