I love my job, I love my role. I’m Study Centre Coordinator in the Sociology Department - it’s student support, but it’s a bespoke service. Whether it’s academic or personal we can talk about it. Boyfriends, girlfriends, cats, dogs, whatever the problem is, we’ll talk, so I really get to know the students. We’ve got third years finishing now and I can tell you whose mum makes lovely cakes; in fact I get one every term! We also offer employability support, in addition to the university employability centre. For example, there are a lot of roles in the council that link to Sociology and Criminology, so they can use that as a stepping stone to the next place. I help students through their dissertations too, even if I have to drag a student through! I give them goals and encourage them to get this bit done by this date. Or, if you’ve left it too late I’ll tell you ‘do this, this, this and this, you’re too late for this, so do this’ and they get it done. I also look after Postgrads, all the way up to PhD students. I’m not at that level, but sometimes they just need emotional support!
So from employability to health, to general chat, even somewhere to just eat their lunch, or moan about the lecturers; we offer all of that. We’re a large department and our students need us, they need the support. It’s not necessarily about coming in with A’s and B’s, it’s about having passion for the subject. I love my role, I absolutely love it.
I didn’t have a good time at school, I didn’t get on with sixth form, I’ve had some personal struggles and I just felt like I had to do something for my kids, for those people who haven’t got a voice. So in 2010 I was sitting at my office desk as a travel agent, I was manager of a travel shop, and I thought ‘there must be more than this’. I was stuck in the benefit trap as a single parent with two kids, and I just thought that I had to do something. So I went back to college, did the access course and I applied to university, mostly for a laugh - I didn’t think I’d get in, but I got offered every place. I chose Essex, came here and did my degree in Criminology. I started in 2012 and graduated in 2015. It was quite an achievement because in school I was an under-achiever, I hardly got any GCSE’s. I wanted to prove to my children that you can still do something later on. So I came out of with a 2.2 – I’m proud of my 2.2.
In 2010 they found out I was dyslexic and dyspraxic, it was never picked up at school. So in my first term at university I did think about leaving. But then Carlos took us out for a coffee and told us that it’s normal to feel this, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’d like to do a Masters eventually, but I want to get my kids through their degrees first. I need to take a step back, but they keep saying that I should do my Masters.
Carlos told me that by the end of the first year I’d find my area. I’ve found mine, mine is definitely poverty, young people, young offenders. I think young people today have the toughest time ahead of them. There’s no job stability like there used to be. I’ve got two girls who are 18 and 22 and I can see what they’re going through. My eldest daughter got a first class degree last year in Performing arts and Technical Theatre, and my youngest daughter has just been offered every place for her course; Fashion and Textiles starting this year. I’m so proud of my girls. When my eldest called and told me she’d got a first, oh my god!
Outside of work at the uni I’ve also done a lot of community work and youth work. I handed the youth club back over in July, I had to hand it back, it was just too much. But I was running it from 2013 to last year. It’s running now with YMCA, I’m still involved but I’ve handed it over to them. I also volunteer as Chair of the community centre, based in Greenstead in Colchester. It’s a very deprived area as we know, it gets a bad reputation, but it isn’t that bad! The community centre works with babies right up to the elderly. This year I want to do more over the summer with kids – coach trips to places like Southend. The community centre is just so big now and it’s growing. We want to do more for the hungry, for example.
I just want to see young people do well, it’s my passion! I don’t know where my passion comes from, but my Criminology degree gave me a different perspective on the world for sure. If I could give some advice I’d say don’t worry what everyone else is doing – focus on yourself. Take care of yourself and achieve what’s best for you. Don’t listen to everybody else; it’s your personal goals, your personal achievement. And make sure you choose the university that feels right, if it doesn’t feel right you won’t be happy.