Having struggled most of my life academically due to ADHD, I had written off the possibility of Further Education entirely at an early age. I joined the British Army as a Coldstream Guard, however an accident left me with a severely broken leg which ultimately ended my career. After leaving the army I spiralled into extreme depression, until I was asked to volunteer at a SEN school which my sister, who has Down’s Syndrome, attended. Once I had completed my Level 3, I soon realised I had more to give and I found a job as a Higher-Level Teaching Assistant within an alternative provision, working with kids who had a similar background to myself.
I’d been working as an HLTA for a year when my boss convinced me that I was capable of more, so I decided to push myself. I enrolled onto the part-time FdA Education and Care at the University of Sunderland, via South Tyneside College. The support I received from the staff was outstanding and it allowed me to see the world from a completely different perspective. It was the first time I was defined by my character and not my disability.
From there, it was an easy decision to move onto the BA (Hons) Childhood and Society Studies (Top-Up) course. Despite studying during the global pandemic where we were faced with a whole new way of learning, the lecturers made the experience as interactive and inviting as possible. Without a doubt, the most enjoyable part of the course was the Equality and Diversity module, where the focus was very much around discussion and learning from each other’s experiences. This allowed us as a cohort to change our points of view on so many topics we thought we already knew about. It completely opened my mind and taught me to value the opinions of others, as well as enable me to become a better practitioner, team player and person.
Provided I graduate with the result I’m hoping for, I intend to continue my studying and complete a master's degree in psychology. My career aim is to become an education psychologist, helping students like myself who simply need a nudge in the right direction.
To anyone considering Higher Education, my advice would be, don’t wait! Dive in and embrace this life-changing experience with an open mind – by the end, you’ll have grown tenfold. The support that the staff and the University have given me, particularly with regards to my mental health and disability, has been second to none.”
Published 15 June 2022