Skip to content

A series of podcasts, sharing personal experiences as well as guidance and advice on the support available at the University, is being shared this week to mark National Care Leavers Week (October 26 to November 1).

The podcasts will feature the personal story of Kerry Jones, a recent graduate of Applied Psychology at University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS,) as well as from Helen Cooper from the Widening Participation team and Becca Hughes from Student Support Services about the support put in place by the institution for care experienced students.

Kerry entered foster care at the age of 12, and at 15 was placed with a foster family that gave her the stability and support that she did not experience in her birth family. 

She said: "I was just so filled with anger with society and with my parents, that I could not trust people. My foster parents became my role models and gave me trust and confidence in my abilities. They said: 'We are here to support you no matter what you need' and I just thrived on that commitment.  From that point on, my life turned."

Kerry had her first child, Reece, at the tender age of 14. Alongside the responsibilities of caring for her child and finishing her GCSEs, she had to deal with the negative labelling and stereotypes of being a teenage mother. 

"If it hadn’t been for having my son young, I don't know what path I would have gone down. It could have been a wrong path. Reece was my motivation," said Kerry. "I was just so determined to prove everyone who assumed I was going to be just like my parents wrong, because that was not who I wanted to be."  

Kerry and Reece lived with her foster parents until she became independent at 17, she then transitioned into supported accommodation until the age of 18 and found a home of her own and a job working with adults with learning disabilities.   

Kerry decided she wanted to go to university to build a solid foundation for her small family. She first tried the Open University for a year because she felt the flexibility of online courses would best fit her work and childcare responsibilities. After a year, she began to look at other universities because the course didn't meet her expectations and she visited UCS on an Open Day

"The location was good; the Applied Psychology course sounded very interesting, and the University was small in comparison to a university like Birmingham, which appealed to me,” she said. "Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, I just knew it was the place for me."  

Kerry and her partner, Andrew, moved house and adopted a dog, and she reduced her hours at work to make time for her studies. Then, proving that life doesn't always happen on schedule, she became pregnant - with twins. She was elated as she and Andrew wanted to extend their family but scared she would run into the same labels she had already endured as a teenage mum.    

"I reverted back to the feeling of being a teenage mother and worried about being negatively labelled and stereotyped, discriminated against really. But in fact that never happened during the second pregnancy. Not once. Everyone was completely supportive. With my consent, my Personal Academic Tutor discreetly let the news out that I was pregnant and nothing changed. My cohort was really supportive and that helped a tremendous amount," said Kerry.  

Kerry continued her studies until her twins, Maisie and Phoebe, were born eight weeks prematurely, after which she took a year off from University to concentrate on being a mother to her three children. She returned to University full-time two years ago. While in her final year Kerry worked in a paid role with Student Support Services and completed her dissertation, ‘Widening participation for care leavers in higher education’. She is graduating with a 2:1 degree

Since leaving the University, Kerry has secured a full-time job with the Mental Health charity, Mind working as a Peer Support Worker, and will be starting a degree in Mental Health Nursing next year. Kerry is keen to pursue a role that focuses on helping others. She added: "My goal is to have a career in which I feel I am making a difference in people's lives,”

David Clarke, Co-ordinator for Academic Quality and Student Support at UCS, said: “We are incredibly proud of Kerry and her experience is so inspiring. The University is a supportive environment for everyone who chooses to study here.We hope that by listening to Kerry’s powerful story and the advice from our experts Helen, Becca and Ella about the support available, others will feel empowered to take a step into their future and learn more about studying with us.”

The podcasts are available on Spotify or on Buzzsprout

Share this content