If anyone typifies the spirit of next week’s inaugural FN Extra Mile list, it was Citi banker Adnan Jaffery who set out to transform teenage lives even though he had cancer

If anyone typifies the spirit of the inaugural FN Extra Mile list to be published next week, it was Citi banker Adnan Jaffery who set out to transform teenage lives even though he had cancer.

Jaffery, a repo trader with Citigroup, was just 25 when he was diagnosed with a rare form of adrenal cancer. Doctors told him to take time off work, but rather than putting his feet up Jaffery turned to mentoring youngsters from deprived backgrounds with youth charity The Prince’s Trust.

“But that wasn’t enough for Adnan,” recalls Asif Godall, global head of credit trading at HSBC and a former colleague of Jaffery. “He always said you were just dropping in, meeting these kids for a short time, then disappearing. He wanted more than that.”

Jaffery figured that what youngsters on the cusp of failing their exams really needed was something more intensive, something that would raise their pass rates in English and maths – “the passports to success”, as he called them – and keep them out of trouble at weekends, plus give them a big dose of self-belief.

So the idea for high-intensity weekend mentoring sessions was born – a combination of crammer school and inspirational boot camp: “One with rewards,” Godall says. “Jaffery hand-picked teenagers he thought were at risk of failing and got them back to the classroom on Saturday and Sunday, giving them breakfast in the morning, pizza at lunch, paying all for it himself, even tickets to see Arsenal – Adnan was an Arsenal season ticket holder – if they’d done particularly well.

“And then he brought inspirational speakers in the afternoon. People like [BBC TV series The] Apprentice winner Tim Campbell to give them speeches to tell them what they could achieve and to help boost their self-belief.”

Jaffery called the programme One Degree, after the idea that a small change in direction when you are younger can make a profound difference in later life. Four years later the success of the idea is borne out by the remarkable improvement in GCSE pass rates. In 2013, for example, the year 11 pupils that joined the eight-week programme had a predicted pass rate of 25%, but saw this jump to 65% after taking part in the programme.

Jaffery died of cancer in January 2011, aged just 32, a month after being granted funding from Autonomous Research, which secured One Degree’s long-term future.” He was having chemotherapy at the time and had to attend the final pitch in a wheelchair with a drip attached,” recalls Godall.

Jaffery is warmly remembered as an inspiration by the people he met. As Keith Miller, headmaster of the Crest Boys Academy, whose pupils attended One Degree, put it: “Adnan Jaffery was a special person who touched the lives of so many of my students. He inspired them, supported them, gave them incredible self-drive and confidence and gave them considerably improved life chances.

“It was an honour and privilege to have known and worked with him. He will never be forgotten and forever in our thoughts and hearts.”

Jaffery’s legacy lives on in the shape of the continued success of One Degree, now a registered charity. Godall and a group of friends got together to ensure the weekend sessions continue. FN investment banking editor Matt Turner and assistant online editor Clare Dickinson are also involved: “The amazing thing is the way the kids voluntarily agree to give up their Saturdays and Sundays to attend. Psychological tests performed at the end of the session also show improved self-esteem,” says Dickinson.

And perhaps in the ultimate tribute, One Degree has just won funding under the UK government’s free schools scheme to open its own academy in Brent, which opens in 2016.

“Everyone loved Adnan,” says Goodall. “He was just one of those people who had the knack for getting on with everyone from millionaires to kids on the street. In many ways these were kids that people were giving up hope for, but Adnan gave them back self-belief.”

By Graeme Kerr (Source)