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
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.