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Leeds Trinity graduate and mental health ambassador nominated for Inspirational Individual award

Posted on 13 December 2019

news, news:Childhood and Education, news:Employability, news:Graduation, news:Leeds, news:Psychology

A Counselling Psychology graduate from Leeds Trinity University has been nominated for the Inspirational Individual award at the Yorkshire Choice Awards.

21-year-old Rachael, from Cross Gates in Leeds, graduated from Leeds Trinity University after completing her full-time degree whilst raising her daughter Lily-Rose, now aged six. She joined Leeds Trinity as an undergraduate student in September 2016, finding her first year especially difficult after a negative experience in the school education system.

Determined to provide her daughter with the best possible future, Rachael persevered and completed her degree in three years. After joining the women’s rugby union team and with encouragement from Dr Alison Torn, Senior Teaching Fellow at Leeds Trinity University, her confidence grew and she celebrated her achievements in last week’s ceremony with her daughter and family.

Rachael said: “My first year at Leeds Trinity was my toughest – I would have dropped out in the first few months if it wasn’t for the support I received from staff members. They made me realise that I was capable of doing my degree, and I loved the environment and how much confidence I gained from being viewed as a person rather than a number.

“I always worried I wouldn’t fit in as a younger mother but once I joined the women’s rugby union team, I found my family at university. They were the most wonderful and accepting women, and bringing my daughter along really helped me, especially during third year.”

Dr Alison Torn said: “‘Rachael’s story could have been very different. Her story could have been centred around underage pregnancy and being a teenage mum. Instead, Rachael’s story is about embracing what life has given her, silencing detractors and providing a role model through resilience and determination, not only for her daughter, but for all young people. 

“At the heart of Rachael’s story is inspiring young people to be the best that they can be, to not be defined by difficulties faced and meeting these challenges head on so that they and others can have better, brighter futures.”

During her second year at University, Rachael started working as an ambassador for Leeds-based mental health website, MindMate. The website, which was founded by NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, helps people to explore emotional wellbeing and mental health issues, offering information about where support is available.

Through her work with MindMate, Rachael has carried out public speaking at conferences and schools, and has also worked with the media to raise awareness about mental health, adverse childhood experiences, education reform, young carers and domestic violence. Her campaign work has resulted in her nomination for ‘Inspirational Individual’ at the Yorkshire Choice Awards, which take place next year.

Reflecting on her nomination, Rachael said: “When I started working for MindMate during my second year of university, I quickly found out that people wanted to hear my story and find out how they can change things to make students’ lives easier. People wait a lifetime to have the opportunities I have had through this role, and I believe this will be my life’s work. I feel very overwhelmed and privileged to have been nominated and recognised at only 21 years old.” ​

Moving forward, Rachael hopes to continue her work as a motivational speaker in the mental health sector. She will find out if she has been voted as ‘Inspirational Individual’ at the Yorkshire Choice Awards on Saturday 14 March at The Centenary Pavilions, Leeds United. You can vote for Rachael here.​