Suffering at the hands of her violent stepfather and going from one foster home to another made Nicola Burton determined that she wouldn’t end up like her dysfunctional family. Instead she turned to education and is enjoying her new life at Edge Hill University.
The-23-year-old has decided to tell her inspirational story to others as part of National Care Leavers’ Week (24th to 30th October) to show others in similar situations that anything is possible with determination and support.
In this videoNicola and other care leavers at Edge Hill explain the challenges they have overcome to get to where they are today.
Nicola was first put into care at the age of three with her five brothers and sister after she was repeatedly physically abused by her mother’s partner. Her mother was a drug addict and “too out of it” to protect her.
“It was so scary when I was moved into care,” said Nicola. “But the older girls would look out for you and it just became a way of life.
“When I was younger I was moved around a lot, which was heart-breaking at times. I’d be told that they had found me a home for life and then without any explanation I’d be carted off somewhere else. It was horrible feeling rejected and wondering what I’d done wrong, why these people didn’t want me. I’d try so hard to behave all the time but then I’d think ‘what’s the point when they don’t want me anyway’.
“It was only when I was put with my carer Bev eight years ago that things started to change. She gave me the love that I’d never had before and put me on the right track. I started to build up my self-confidence, I did better at school and I realised I wanted to change my life and go to university. I’ve also had great support from my after-care worker who has really encouraged me to do well too.”
Nicola, originally from Burnley, is now in her first year on the BA (Hons) Child Care and Learning Development degree programme and wants to eventually teach primary school children. She also wants to become a foster parent so she can give others the chances she never had when she was younger.
“I love it here at Edge Hill,” said Nicola. “It has the best reputation for education and teaching and I’m so glad I was able to study here. The support I get is fantastic and if I have any issues there’s always someone I can turn to.
“I want to tell other people in care to do what they feel is best for them and put the past behind them and not let it destroy their future. When I have children or foster I want to give them the best in life and give them a loving home, something that I never had when I was little. I want to show that people in care are the same as everybody else and should be given the same chances in life.”
Edge Hill is committed to increasing the numbers of care leavers going to University and has held the Buttle UK Quality Mark for Care Leavers since 2006, which recognises the way it addresses the specific challenges that this group of young students face in higher education.
Joan Blee, Administration and Support Manager of Student Services, said: “These young people have often had a great deal to contend with and they deserve to be given a chance the same as everybody else. Edge Hill is committed to offering extra support to help them throughout their time at university to help them overcome some of the challenges and barriers they have faced. Care leavers have had to cope with very tough times and have been through so much, so if we can help them achieve in any way it makes my job worthwhile.”
The University offers a range of benefits to study at Edge Hill, including an annual bursary of £750 up to a maximum of three years, a room in the University Halls of Residence for the duration of their degree course and one-to-one guidance and support