Rotesha finds her future in the British Army
Keep a positive outlook and focus on your goal is Rotesha James-Dill’s advice to struggling teenagers.
She was bullied throughout school. Having thought she’d found her way, she was told her asthma would make the career she’d set her heart on impossible.
And then on Christmas Eve, 2013, her father, Ralph Dill, died of cancer.
Two weeks ago, she hugged her mom Lisa James goodbye, and went off to follow her dream of joining the British Army.
The 14-week course with the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at Army Training Centre Pirbright, is the 19-year-old’s first step towards becoming an aircraft technician, a job inspired by her dad.
“I've always been a hands-on person. I'd say my dad helped me the most because he's a hands-on person as well. And I've always been around him when he's been using machinery around the house.
“So I was going through my options career-wise and, regular school isn’t something that interests me the most because I'm not one to sit behind a desk and listen to a teacher talk. But I felt as though the army offered a career that I wanted to pursue, whilst learning at the same time. So I felt like that was the right field for me to go in.”
Despite that, her application to the army’s junior academy at the age of 15 was rejected because of her asthma.
“It’s been a long wait since the first time I applied,” said Rotesha who was finally accepted in November. ”I’ve been through medical checks, physical checks, fitness, all the way. After all the long waiting times, I’m finally happy to make it to this stage in my application.”
She and her twin sister Ronesha moved with their mother to the UK in 2010, leaving their three siblings behind. The three of them returned home in 2013 but headed back to England the following year to complete their studies.
“I left Bermuda because I felt that I could continue my education at a better level in England and achieve better qualifications after finishing high school,” Rotesha said.
“Out here we have GCSEs, in Bermuda it’s IGCSEs – the I stands for international. GCSEs, you can use them to get into university, college. They even helped me get into the army because I needed maths and English in order to join the course I'm joining whereas in Bermuda, if I had IGCSEs I would have had to take maths and English exams to get into the army anyway.”
The one downside was the bullying, that she had also endured in school here.
“There was physical abuse – chasing me through the corridor in school, telling me I can't go to a classroom, pushing me around, sometimes punching me around. Verbal abuse; talking bad about my mum when they don't even know my mum, saying that I don't look nice or my hair doesn't look nice or my clothes don’t look nice. Stuff like that.
“Some people just didn't like me – maybe I was achieving better grades. I couldn't really tell you why but I have experienced some type of bullying or injustice towards me throughout my schooling. But I just kind of kept my head down and stayed focused on what I wanted and not really worried about anyone else.”
Having her mother’s support helped a lot, she added.
“She's always been an encouragement to me. She's always helped me when I've been struggling or when I've ever experienced bullying.
“She's always tried to do what's best for me and I probably wouldn’t have made it this far without her words of encouragement. She’s always pushed me to be better and bring up the better side of me. She’s always supportive and telling me how proud she is of me.
“I just thank her for helping me through everything I've ever been through. She tries hard and it's not easy, because she's got her own obstacles as well; she's trying to figure out stuff as well. It wasn't easy to become a single parent out of the blue, but I feel like, over the years, she's been the best parent that anyone could ask for.”
At the moment Rotesha is immersed in her 14 weeks of training with the British Army. In anticipation she focused on improving her fitness by “running, doing weightlifting, mentally preparing myself as well”.
“It's definitely going to be tough, not only physically but mentally as well because you need to be in that mindset where you need to have that self-determination to get through the day,” she said of the programme. “Not every day is going to be easy. So I just need to keep a positive attitude and sometimes that might be hard because I might be feeling homesick or have a lack of confidence, but I always need to just remind myself I'm there for a reason, which is to build and establish myself for my future and my career.”
Once the first phase is completed she begins formal classes to learn how to become an aircraft technician.
“After I finish the first round of training, my minimum service is four years, but I'm looking to serve eight years or twelve, just to get the gears of it under my belt before I venture off into a different company or possibly open my own business.”
Mindful of the war that Russia has waged against the Ukraine, the teenager says she is prepared to go to battle if required.
“I try not to think too deeply about it, but if anything was to happen then I'll just keep a positive outlook on things and focus on what needs to be focused on at that time.”