“I turned a loss into a big positive, now I do everything with a massive amount of humour.” – Julie Kent, MBE
We at BoxHuman are passionate about highlighting and celebrating inspiring humans; especially the ones who are inspiring, helping, and bringing light to the world. We do this to rebalance some of the negative messages we often hear, see, and receive daily. We met up with one of these amazing individuals…
Hi Julie, it’s great to meet you. Without further ado, let’s start this BoxHuman Inspire Series interview. Can you please tell me a little bit about you and what you’re especially known for?
I am a fifty-nine-year-old, excitable, energetic young woman who likes to do good! I recently retired from living with sixty teenage girls in a boarding house in Cheltenham. I did this for twenty years whilst teaching the saxophone at the school for thirty years. I did a degree in jazz and light music at Leeds and have enjoyed playing sax and singing at functions all over the world. I am looking to get back to it after the pandemic.
Thank you for sharing that, Julie. Congratulations on being awarded an MBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her 2020 birthday honours list. Can you please tell us how your inspiring journey began into being a House Mistress at Dean Close School and setting up your charities? What inspired you to do this and why?
I lost my first daughter to a brain tumour when she was three years old. We did not have any other children at the time and we wanted to raise money for anaesthetic equipment at the hospital so that children could be scanned quicker when having chemo. Hence why the Emily Kent Charitable Trust was founded.
We threw ourselves into fundraising for children with cancer in Gloucestershire. The oncology unit at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital is called the Emily Kent Unit and there was an award named after her at the Bristol Children’s hospital until recently.
Nearly a decade on after having a son and daughter we folded the charity and I raised money for CLIC Sargent. I’ve run the London Marathon, teenage cancer trust, and Breast Cancer until I joined Pied Piper Appeal, making a difference to the sick and disabled children in Glos.
Thank you for being so open and sharing that Julie. What an incredible and inspiring way to honour your daughter and her life.
Working in a boarding school must have had its ups and downs. What has been your biggest challenge in your twenty years of being a House Mistress and how did you overcome these challenges?
Parents can be quite difficult to deal with!! They have certain expectations that their children may never achieve but do not want to face up to. Also balancing life as a Wife, Mum, and surrogate mum to sixty girls is hard work and a challenge. Wanting to give yourself to everyone…luckily my family was very understanding.
We’ve been told that you set up the Julie Kent Foundation Award to fund a child’s place for five years. What inspired you to do this and why?
Dean Close is an amazing school. My children benefited in so many ways as neither of them is academic and dyslexic but they thrived in the classroom.
Ollie had the opportunity to play county hockey and all other sports and Georgia got involved with the drama behind the scenes doing make-up for all productions. I would like to enable a child that would not normally be able to afford to attend Dean Close to have this amazing opportunity.
Boarding is also so much fun for most…you learn to be independent but live with your friends. Weekends are great fun in a boarding house.
What a wonderful and life-changing gift! That being said, What has been the proudest moment in your life so far? And…What do you want people to learn from your life experiences?
When I was given the Most Outstanding Woman in the Charitable Sector in the West Award. I thought that was my most proud moment but since receiving my MBE in June I think that has got to be it!!
I was born in a little terraced house in Gloucester and I now have those three letters after my name…it is awesome! I hope all the girls that I dragged to fundraising events dressed up or helped to organise events at school are inspired to go out and do the same.
I would like to see others make a difference and to give to other people, not just fundraising or money but giving their time to people…and giving themselves as I have tried to do.
What has been the hardest personal challenge you’ve faced and how have you overcome this challenge?
Losing Emily at the age of three was devastating. We don’t expect to bury our children before ourselves. Starting the charity straight away gave us something to focus on.
Something good to come out of something so terrible. The pain is excruciating but I am a positive person and it kept me going. Some people ask why me or us but I just felt we had to do something to help other people that were or could go through the same thing.
We’re nearly halfway through your interview. I think it’s the best time to start our BoxHuman Inspire questions before we say goodbye…
1) If there was one positive thing you would say to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?
1. Even if you feel down…if you do something for someone else …they will be thankful and happy and that will make you feel better. It is very difficult not to smile at someone that smiles at you…it is like a yawn…infectious… ALWAYS THINK OF OTHERS.
2) What is your favourite quote?…
I like lots of quotes but this has to be one of them…
“No one has ever become poor by giving”Anne Frank
This Anne Frank quote is a great one, but I also like quotes about fashion. I love Marilyn Monroe’s quotes…It depends on what kind of mood I am in…This one makes me smile…
“Give a girl the right shoes and she’ll conquer the world!”Marilyn Monroe
What future life goals do you want to achieve and why? And in three words how would you describe yourself.
I would like a blue tick on my Instagram and Twitter!!! I would also like to do a TED talk… or be invited to do one! I would like to succeed in putting a child through Dean Close and raise £500k in one year of profit for Pied Piper. We have never been able to get past £283k. I would also like to encourage hundreds of people to raise money for different charities through my talks and raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for good causes. I have a plan for that!
Three words that best describe me are…
Energetic, Crazy, and ResilientJulie Kent
Wow, what an incredibly inspiring interview! The world needs more people like you, so thank you for shining your light on others! Finally and to conclude this interview…
A BoxHuman is an empowered individual. They will not be defined by society’s labels. They show the better qualities of humankind, such as strength, kindness and inspiration. Can you please tell us what makes you a BoxHuman?
I am a BoxHuman because I turned a loss into a big positive, I do everything with a massive amount of humour. I rarely take anything too seriously anymore because there is nothing worse than losing a child.
I believe that everyone is valuable and talked to the cleaners and catering staff as much as I spoke to other teachers at school. I stand outside and talk to the homeless at Cheltenham Open Door where I am Chairman of a charity supporting people that could be homeless or struggling with poverty and mental health issues.
Life is for living…every minute of every day. I like to enjoy every minute and have fun whilst giving.
“Thank you, Julie.”
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