HKF Award Year
Now works as
Head of Autism at Abbots Lea School and Trustee of Helena Kennedy Foundation
“I went to Preston College to study BTEC Sport. Whilst studying at college I had a complete breakdown in relationship with my mother who I lived with at the time. During the first year of my studies I stayed with friends, sometimes strangers and for some periods of time a youth hostel in Chorley called Cotswold. Cotswold housed many people including drug users and ex-offenders.
My welfare adviser at college (Caroline Gale) supported me through 1:1 support sessions, food vouchers and finding me a secure place to live in Preston so that I could continue with my studies in a safe place. In private conversation I had told Caroline that I had always felt inspired by an amazing supply teacher I had in Primary School, but believed that I would never make it to University considering my social Circumstances.
Once I finished college I left to try living in Nottingham with my Dad and signed up to Jobseeker’s allowance whilst trying to find a job in admin. I spent the summer of 2009 feeling incredibly low, I was struggling to find a job with limited work experience and a poor address history. Often I was asked why I had gaps in my address history during times my belongings was kept in a bin bag and I ‘sofa-surfed’ at friends houses, even completing my college coursework using a spare computer at a ‘Help the Homeless’ charity.
Two days before clearing I rang Preston College to see if there was any way I could get to University through clearing and discovered that I had actually been awarded the HKF scholarship for a place on a teacher training course and only needed to choose a subject specialism and somewhere to live – all within a couple of days! My bursary awarded by HKF allowed me to buy resources I needed to support my studies at University, and helped me to feel like I had an equal opportunity to succeed and do well. HKF even supported my application for student finance along with the local MP, where I came up against the same barriers to education and well-being when I could not answer questions about my address history or provide financial statements from my estranged mother who refused to support my application.
I often wonder what life would be like now had I not been awarded my scholarship. I am now in a huge position to give back to others and make a real difference to hundreds of lives – if not more. I also think about the number of young people who will not be as lucky as I was to receive a life changing opportunity, and that motivates me to do more to make a difference. Sometimes I feel like I have a condition called Imposter Syndrome – how can a girl who used to share a room with a drug addict, with strict visiting rules of no more than 2 people between the hours of 8am-8pm only and with only £30 EMA to survive on per week be Head of a department earning more than the average salary in the UK?
I love learning and I am passionate about what I do and I hope that my future work will help to raise aspirations for all people who are facing barriers to learning, employment and achieving a sense of belonging within a community. I cannot thank HKF enough for opening a seemingly bolted door to so many life-changing opportunities”.