A FORMER Sutton High pupil who sits on the board of one of the UK’s biggest charities credits an old teacher with getting her where she is.
Michelle Mitchell, 39, has been promoted to charity director general of Age UK.
Now living in London, Ms Mitchell says former English and A-level sociology teacher John Bryant was the main inspiration for a career that has taken her from Greasby Drive in Ellesmere Port to the House of Commons and national charity work.
“He was quite a character,” she remembers.
“He made you think for yourself. He created the opportunity for you to think about alternative ways of living and the big wide world outside Ellesmere Port.
“He was instrumental in getting me to go on and do the things I’ve done.”
Ms Mitchell shares her London home with long-term partner Sean Mitchell, daughter Lily Rose, three and son Ruairi, two.
After attending Brookside infants and Sutton Way junior school, she moved on to Sutton High in the 1980s before attending the University of Manchester to study economics.
Her first job was at the House of Commons, working with then Labour MP and later first minister of Scotland, Donald Dewar.
“I was quite lucky to be Donald Dewar’s research assistant. It made me very aware of the political processes and how you lobby and effect change.”
Her meteoric rise to the top of one of the country’s biggest charities began 10 years ago when she joined Age Concern from the NSPCC as head of public affairs.
She was instrumental in the rebranding of Age UK when Age Concern and Help the Aged were merged in 2009.
From a job as communications director, she became charity director when Age UK formed before the recent promotion.
“I was back last weekend staying with old school friends. I brought my daughter up and saw my two nieces and old school mates.”
Ms Mitchell, who applied to do work experience at the Pioneer when she was 14, revealed growing up in Ellesmere Port motivated her commitment to helping people.
“Growing up in the 1980s, it was quite a politicised area.
“The town itself was really feeling the effects of that government’s policies at the time.
“I became politicised about what I saw around me – you could see hardship and people who wanted to do better and have decent lives.
“That spurred me on for advocating for change.
“I was lucky that I was always encouraged by my teachers, my parents and friends to go on and do things I wanted to do.”