Kirsty Young wins Festival of Learning Award

6th July 2021 9:33am - Return to press releases

Kirsty Young wins Festival of Learning Award

A member of staff and former student at East Riding College, Kirsty Young has won the 2021 Festival of Learning ‘Return to Learning’ Award.   

The national Festival of Learning Awards celebrate learning and its benefits and aim to encourage and inspire those that do not already take part in learning. Festival of Learning award winners showcase the wide-ranging impacts learning has on individuals, families, communities and employers.

Kirsty was nominated by the Helena Kennedy Foundation, a charity that awarded her a bursary to continue her learning journey at university - providing financial support and mentoring.  Kirsty has recently raised over £3000 for the Foundation in order to fund a bursary to support another student progressing to university this year.

Kirsty was a victim of child grooming from the age of fourteen and suffered domestic and sexual violence as a result. For four years she had no contact with her family or the outside world. By the time she was nineteen she had two children, was pregnant for the third time and found herself facing homelessness. At that point her family found out about her situation and she was re-introduced back to them. However, by this time she had suffered so much abuse, she was suicidal and was suffering de-personalisation disorder and was on the anorexic scale. She eventually moved to her own home under police protection in 2007.

Encouraged by her mum, she joined East Riding College to do a level one in health and social care. During her time at the College she learned how to communicate with others and gained some self-confidence. Her learning journey took off from there, and with the encouragement and support of the staff at the College and her family and friends, she moved through the qualification levels until she was able to progress to university.

Kirsty says, “Initially my motivation for learning was to try to build some self-esteem and to re-learn how to fit in within society after being isolated and controlled for so long. I wanted to provide a future for my children to give them the best start in life and free them from hardship. I wanted my children to have opportunities to be happy and to succeed.  I had fantastic supporters at the College who could see my potential even when I couldn’t, such as my guidance officer who provided me with much needed motivation when I didn’t see my own value.  As I progressed, my motivation and hopes were to succeed in education so that in the future, I could work in a role supporting young people to help them succeed in life and achieve their best outcomes. I wanted to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

“Learning has changed my life forever.  It has given me a future full of opportunities and possibilities.  I didn’t think I was clever enough to achieve in anything, so university wasn’t even a consideration. Learning has taught me education is for everyone. It has helped me grow as a person and allowed me to gain confidence and learn my own value.  The qualifications I gained mean I can work as a Learning Support Advisor. I support students who have additional needs such as learning and physical disabilities, in a wide variety of subjects on their learning journeys. I meet many students who have had negative learning or life experiences which affects their views of education and themselves. I try to inspire students with my own story and teach them that they can achieve.  My learning journey has ultimately influenced my own children and they too have a positive attitude towards learning with goals of their own for their futures.”

Shahida Aslam, Director of Operations at the Helena Kennedy Foundation said:

“We are blown away by Kirsty’s ambition and motivation to develop herself. For a long time she had very little confidence and no self-worth yet with support and encouragement, and her own determination, she has achieved so much.  The Helena Kennedy Foundation exists to overcome social injustice by providing financial bursaries, mentoring and support to disadvantaged further education students just like Kirsty - people facing significant barriers to continuing or returning to education.  She is an excellent ambassador for the charity and we’re delighted her progress on her learning journey has been recognised by the Festival of Learning Award.”

In September 2020, Kirsty was accepted onto a PGCE course, with the aim of becoming a teacher for those with learning disabilities. She put her plans on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions but her learning journey will continue when she starts the course in September 2021. In the future Kirsty hopes to do a Masters degree at the University of Hull in Special Educational Needs, Inclusion and Diversity.