Posted : 30th September 2013
Louise Bradshaw, 37 from Birmingham, first heard of Fircroft College after a visit from the Principal Fiona Larden to Turning Point Zephyr, a community rehabilitation programme aimed at helping people with drug and alcohol problems. Louise, who was struggling with drug dependency at the time, heard Fiona speaking about learning opportunities available at Fircroft and decided to make the positive step of enrolling on some short residential courses.
This was over ten years ago. Over the next few years Louise dipped in and out of education as she continued to wrestle with addiction. “I was still enrolling on courses at Fircroft trying to get myself on track. Often I wouldn’t turn up for courses, sometimes I’d even fall asleep in class! Even during the madness of this period of my life, the staff never wrote me off, they stuck with me. Fircroft gave me something to focus on.”
Eventually, after overcoming her addiction, Louise decided that she wanted to do something constructive with her life. She continued to build her skills and confidence via further short courses at Fircroft and also started volunteering in local hospitals, leading to her gaining a fixed term post at Edward Street Hospital in West Bromwich. When this contract finished, she made her next goal going to university and getting a degree.
Louise enrolled on the Access to Higher Education Diploma in Humanities at Fircroft in September 2012. She took up a non-residential place, juggling the rigours of full-time education with her role as a mother of three young children. Louise successfully completed the course, though by her own admission, it was no easy feat. She attributes much of the credit to her personal tutor, Ifemu Omari, commenting, “The staff at Fircroft were great, but Fem in particular was more supportive than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. I’d go to see her in tears, on the verge of dropping out. Every time after speaking with Fem I’d feel much more positive. She went above and beyond.”
Louise impressed everyone at Fircroft so much with her determination to overcome barriers and turn her life around that the College nominated her for a Helena Kennedy Foundation Award. This prestigious national prize, founded by the Helena Kennedy Foundation, invites colleges from across the UK to put forward deserving students who have overcome significant obstacles, both financial and personal, to complete their further education. This is the fourth time a student from Fircroft has won this award.
Louise and everyone at Fircroft were proud and delighted when it was announced that she was of the successful award winners. Louise is now in her first year at the University of Wolverhampton studying Criminology and Criminal Justice, part of her prize being a bursary providing financial support through the remainder of her higher education.
Dr Ann Limb, Chair and Founder of Trustees at the Helena Kennedy Foundation commented, “This year, as in previous years, Trustees were overwhelmed with applications for the bursaries available and it was exceedingly difficult to make choices. Trustees recognised Louise’s difficult circumstances and were moved and inspired by the commitment and dedication she has shown in continuing their education. Trustees also appreciate the tremendous support that the college has given to Louise.”
Principal of Fircroft College Fiona Larden added, "Over the years I have known Louise it has been wonderful to see how she has turned her life around and fulfilled her potential. I am so proud of the personal and academic progress she has made and I know that she will go on to achieve even more in the future. I wish her every success."