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National security expert Dr Fiona Hill inspires County Durham schoolchildren

Published June 21, 2022 3.17pm


A County Durham school has welcomed back a former pupil who went on to advise three American presidents and serve as a US national security council director.

Dr Fiona Hill

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, Dr Fiona Hill, Cllr Beaty Bainbridge, Chair of Durham County Council, and Grant Sowerby, Headteacher at Bishop Barrington Academy

Dr Fiona Hill, who attended Bishop Barrington Academy in the late 1970s and early 1980s, described her journey from Bishop Auckland to the White House to current pupils and urged them to follow their own dreams.

The visit was organised by our international team and also saw Dr Hill answer pupils' questions during a session led by Professor Rob Lynes, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global) at Durham University.

Talk with pupils

The children heard how during her career in the US, Dr Hill was a security advisor to George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, sharing her expertise in Russian and European affairs.

She rose to international prominence in 2019 as a witness in Donald Trump's impeachment trial, with her comments about how her background and accent had held her back in the UK in the 1980s resonating with many in the region.

Last year, Dr Hill published a memoir, There is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century, a title inspired by her father's words when he encouraged her to leave the North East if she wanted successful career.

Opportunities in County Durham

Dr Hill, who has acknowledged that great progress has been made since the 1980s, was a great supporter of County Durham's shortlisted bid to be UK City of Culture 2025.

She is passionate about raising aspirations among young people, creating opportunities, and shining a light on County Durham and the wider region.

Dr Hill, now a senior fellow at the Centre on the United States and Europe in the Foreign Policy programme at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, said: "I am genuinely excited not just to be back in Bishop Auckland but visiting Bishop Barrington school. It is fantastic to see how much it has been transformed since I attended, and to meet with pupils who are starting out on the rest of their lives.

"I'm thrilled and delighted that this has been possible, and I hope my visit has given some of the pupils a bit of inspiration and some ideas of what they would like to achieve."

Inspiring students

Grant Sowerby, Headteacher at Bishop Barrington Academy, said: "It has been a real pleasure to welcome Dr Hill into school. Dr Hill's career shows that there are no limits on what students at Bishop Barrington Academy can achieve; her journey embodies the Academy mantra of Opening Doors to the Future. Today's talk will undoubtedly inspire students to aim high and work hard to achieve their goals."

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, leader of the council, said: "We were absolutely delighted to welcome Dr Hill back to Bishop Barrington Academy to share incredible stories of her fascinating career with students. Her talk was truly inspirational, and I'm sure Dr Hill's story will stay with pupils and encourage them to believe in themselves and work hard towards their dreams."

Launched last year, the Durham Global Alliance is focussed on young people aged four to 30 and brings together organisations with a shared commitment to forging international partnerships. Its objectives are to create exciting international opportunities for young people, while ensuring activities are coordinated more effectively and resources are shared.

Find more information about the Durham Global Alliance.