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Sisters from travelling community graduate university to inspire others

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After graduating from University of Wales Trinity St David (UWTSD)’s Early Years Education and Care course, sisters Gwennie Jones and Kimberley Janes have one wish – to inspire others in similar situations to use education as a path to achieve their dreams.

Gwennie said they decided to enrol at UWTSD as it was local, and a small campus which suited them both. As a mature student, and from the traveller community, she was nervous to return to education. But after arriving at the University campus, she said she quickly realised how welcoming the students and staff were.

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She said: “They all understood me and surprisingly my culture, and for the first time I felt included, and part of the class. I wasn’t being wrongly judged for who I was.”

Whilst studying the Early Years course, Gwennie said she has noticed many other women from the travelling community following the same path into education.

She added: “I am hoping it’s a change that will ripple through all traveller families. As a mother myself of two daughters (13 and 6 years old) education is key and I hope to inspire them to follow their dreams and goals.”

Gwennie said she loved that the course was straightforward, with modules being taught in blocks and one at a time, and that the lecturers were ready to help at all times, and fellow students were always at hand to encourage and motivate each other.

She said: “UWTSD has helped me develop as an individual by allowing me to be more open-minded. It has helped me grow and be a better parent to my two daughters. UWTSD for me has been more than teaching me early years it allowed me to have confidence in who I am and embrace all backgrounds and cultures. I will certainly miss going to UWTSD, but I will always know I will be a part of the early years’ family.”

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Gwennie said has been fortunate during her student journey to study alongside her sister and felt that this had helped her confidence as well as being able to support and help each overcome any challenges.

“We have cried and laughed together with all the ups and downs over the three years. It will always be something we can look back on with pride.”

After graduating, Gwennie hopes to continue her studies by gaining a master’s degree in Social Work.

Kimberley said she had decided to study early years because education is something that’s “always been instilled through our mother Rose.”

She added: “During my time at UWTSD I found the lecturers very supportive. I probably wouldn’t have started my studies if I didn’t have my sister there with me as I have always lacked confidence, especially with something as big as going into university. My sister motivated and encouraged me to keep going.”

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Kimberley said she was diagnosed with ADHD whilst at UWTSD. “This is something that helped me understand myself and completely changed me as a mother and a person,” she said.

“Studying at UWTSD has given me confidence, I now have more faith in myself and know I can keep climbing the ladder and reach my dreams in becoming a social worker in the near future.

“UWTSD had certainly shown me that everyone can do it and the support that is available from the UWTSD is phenomenal.

“I hope that my children look up to me and are inspired by what I have achieved. I have three young children and now I know my children will achieve what they want and will have the support needed.

“Coming from the travelling community, education isn’t really a big thing, but for me growing up it always was, and I am happy that I went into university and achieved my goals. It has always been something I really wanted and now I just want to keep going and reach higher levels because I know I can and will thanks to UWTSD!”

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Lecturer Glenda Tinney said, “We are delighted to see Gwennie and Kim and all their cohort celebrating today. Gwennie and Kim have studied the same degree and what makes it extra special they are sisters so have been able to share this wonderful study experience.

“Gwennie is now continuing her study journey as part of a postgraduate Social Work qualification and Kim is also preparing to access further study in the same field. I remember meeting Gwennie and Kim in the admissions process and was so impressed with their motivation and enthusiasm to return to study and it is delightful to see them graduating together.

“Gwennie has during the course undertaken placement and so not only is she graduating with her BA (Hons) degree but has also attained Early Years Practitioner Status which is a graduate practice qualification for the early years education and care sector.

“Kim has also undertaken practical experience in order to develop her own interest in the social care sector.

“During their degree, Gwennie and Kim studied a range of subjects including children’s rights, inclusion, safeguarding, additional learning needs, leadership, wellbeing and play, and these will be valuable as they now develop their careers in the social work sector. Like many of our students, Gwennie and Kim have balanced their placement and study commitments alongside supporting their family responsibilities.

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“Congratulations Gwennie, Kim and all our students graduating this summer. We are delighted to be part of students’ journeys and to see them follow their dreams.”

(Lead image: UWTSD)

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