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East London community activist Mike Jervis receives honorary degree

Tower Bridge

Community advocate and activist recognised for contribution to east London and its residents

Mike Jervis, community advocate and activist, was awarded an honorary doctorate of education by the University of East London (UEL) at the University’s graduation ceremonies at ExCeL London on July 17.

Mr Jervis was recognised for his long-standing contribution to east London and its residents. 

In his speech to graduating students, Mr Jervis said, “I am pleased for all of you here today who have reached this milestone and are being rewarded with a degree. A lot of people didn’t make it here today. Many of them had the chance but their lives were prematurely taken from them through knife or gun crime. We have got to stand up and work together so that other young people also have this chance to cross this stage, receive their degrees and reach this milestone in their lives. 

“Sometimes in life, especially when you reach a milestone like this, it helps to stop and consider how you got to that point. I call it a reality check. Where you go from here now really matters. You will be helping to shape the future for others. 

“Remember others and pay it forward to give someone else a chance. Don’t turn your back on someone because as you go up the ladder and hit obstacles you will want someone to help you.”

Born in Hackney in 1964 to Guyanese parents, Mr Jervis' family later moved to Waltham Forest where he grew up with his brothers and sisters.  He dropped out of Waltham Forest College and got involved in street life selling stolen goods.

Getting married and starting a family acted as the catalyst which stopped his engagement in criminal behaviour, and he took on a role at Haringey Council as an anti-social behaviour officer. 

While working for Haringey, Mr Jervis helped to decrease crime in the ward by 57 per cent from 2003 to 2005.  The borough came up with the Small Retailers in Deprived Areas (SRDA) initiative, with the aim of combating crime by increasing lighting and CCTV cameras in the areas outside shops, where young people gathered and were likely to become victims of crime. 

Waltham Forest Council later hired Mr Jervis to tackle violent crime. He developed the national award-winning project Defending Da Hood which was the first time all the gangs in the borough peacefully came together. The strategy enabled the council to improve the mediation of conflict, and violent crime rates in Waltham Forest dropped by 43 per cent in two years.

Mr Jervis was then appointed the chief executive of the Damilola Taylor Trust, where he worked with families of murder victims. 

He is now a consultant and he continues to support the families of murder victims, including the family of Tyrell Matthews-Burton, a British man who was stabbed outside a bar in Greece on his 18th birthday. He is also working with the International Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR) to locate a lost three-year-old child in Syria called Salman Khurshid, whose father was killed and whose mother is missing, so he can be brought to the UK to live safely with his grandparents. 

Mr Jervis' work has been recognised on several occasions. He received an Ascham Homes Community Champion Award in 2008 in recognition of his work in Waltham Forest. In 2014, the Active Change Foundation, a community project which he created to prevent crime and extremism and work with gangs, was cited at the UN Peace Platform by President Obama for the #Notinmyname campaign. The foundation received another award in 2016 for its young leaders programme, which transformed young people into social activists. 

Mr Jervis believes that educational institutions like the University of East London can play a key role in helping communities address current social issues.

He said, “We have plans with UEL and community groups to come together to help young people and ensure they stay out of trouble and can go to their graduation ceremonies to collect their degrees. "