Class of 2018: Young mother overcomes difficult past to master her future

Lois Prest

Published on 10 July 2018

Lois Prest entered the care system as a teenager, and, suffering from severe dyslexia, in her early years had virtually no education. But despite this Lois, from Hartlepool, graduated with a 2.1 degree in Business and Applied Human Resource Management this week – and is now going on to study for a Masters degree at the University of Sunderland.

Lois, 28, studied for an apprenticeship when she left school, but admits she struggled – and never really considered university.

“I started work as an apprentice and went on to complete my NVQ in Business Administration,” says Lois. “I suffer from dyslexia and found it difficult to complete the written work.”

Completing her NVQ was a huge boost for Lois’s confidence, but taking that next step into university was a real challenge. “I started looking into studying at university, and received a lot of support and encouragement from the team at the University of Sunderland.”

Wendy Price, Access to Higher Education and Scholarships Manager at the University of Sunderland, heads up the Care Leaver Student Support Team. She says this year marks a watershed moment for the team, and for students like Lois.

“Lois is one of 14 care experienced or estranged students who is graduating this summer – our highest number yet.

“We provide a We Care scholarships and bespoke support package to 40 care experienced students and 27 estranged students at the University of Sunderland.”

The team meet with each of the University’s care experienced and estranged students to produce a bespoke support plan. This is based on the student’s individual needs and can include help with finding accommodation 52 weeks a year, wellbeing support, additional financial support and finding part time work. One of the things that our students value most is always having someone looking out for them on campus, whether this is to help with academic support or just for a coffee and a chat.

But even with this support on offer Lois was convinced that she would never be able to graduate after a series of problems knocked her confidence.

“I had my daughter on 31 July last year, and I had a very bad pregnancy. Then in January my house burnt down due to an electrical fault. I was left without a home for myself and my kids – but my tutors and my partner helped me get through it.”

Lois admits her time at university has been challenging, but extremely rewarding.

“I went into the care system when I was a teenager, and that was difficult – but nothing will stop me achieving my goals. My partner Dean, and the Care Leaving Team at Sunderland has been so supportive, and I know they will continue to support me throughout my Masters degree in Human Resources Management.”