Two former pupils from a Prestwich high school have returned back to their classrooms to share their memories and success stories with GCSE students.

Justin Onuekwusi and Cynthia Murphy left St Monica's RC High School in 1998 and 2000, respectively, opting for very different, but successful career paths

Since leaving the school on Bury Old Road, Justin has become a top fund manager and has been awarded the Freedom of the City of London for his work on diversity and inclusion.

Cynthia has become a published author with two young adult thriller novels, Last One To Die and Win, Lose, Kill, Die.

The pair returned to speak at the launch of St Monica's alumni network, which deputy head teacher, Mr Breen, hopes will help former students to become reacquainted and increase career aspirations and opportunities for current pupils.

Cynthia, in addition to writing her novels, has taught in both the state and private sectors for over a decade.

She said: "The real difference between private and state schools is the level of opportunity awarded to the pupils.

"Much of this comes from private sector alumni networks - old boys and girls - who come back, speak to and support teens when they are making decisions on their future careers.

"I have worked with pupils who are outstanding in so many ways, but often at state schools, there is no time or money to nurture talent in the ways that private schools can.

 "Students need to see that people like them have gone on to work in many different areas in order for them to realise that anything is attainable with the right work ethic, support and connections."

The careers team at the school say that alumni can get involved in school life in a number of ways, including giving inspirational talks and inviting former students to act as mentors and offer opportunities for work experience placements. 

The launch event was organised by State Talking, who are currently running a pilot project with five local schools, including St Monica's, helping them to grow their alumni networks.

Founder of State Talking, Fran Kennedy, said: “State Talking works to raise the aspirations of young people in Greater Manchester.

“By introducing pupils to relatable role models, whether as school speakers or mentors, we hope to boost their chances of establishing a rewarding career and encourage them to pursue greater opportunities.”

Justin said he had never heard of fund management until he started working in financial services and that he was delighted to explain to St Monica's students why he finds it such a rewarding career.

He said: "Even though we have access and understanding of a whole range of careers now, an alumni network can still offer some interesting insight, support and guidance to students looking to take their next path.

 "I think if the network is carefully positioned as a genuine opportunity for the alumni to give back to current students this could be impactful." 

Deputy head teacher Denis Breen said: “Having an alumni network will help us to achieve our school aim of creating global Catholic citizens whilst also keeping former pupils an integral part of the St Monica’s family.

"The whole school wants to extend their thanks to Justin and Cynthia for helping us to launch the network with such a big bang. 

“We believe family is at the heart of what we do and we want pupils to remain a part of St Monica’s for the rest of their lives. 

“We hope to utilise the wealth of expertise within our alumni to further develop our career provision.

"Having successful, relatable role models is one way of raising our pupils’ aspirations; helping them to learn from people who would have once followed the same school path will be invaluable.”