Committed student Andrea Middleton has overcome devastating family tragedy to graduate from Edge Hill University on Saturday 1st December with a Masters in Education.

In the summer of 2016, Andrea (46) who is originally from South Africa but moved to Hook in Hampshire ten years ago with her husband and three daughters, received some news that would change her life forever.

“As I was about to begin the field research part of my final module, I had news of the sudden and tragic death of my youngest brother, who was still living in South Africa,” said Andrea. “He was killed whilst securing the safety of a friend experiencing a violent attack.

“I immediately travelled back to South Africa to support my family, abandoning my studies, and over the course of the next two years, the criminal trial began, and the process is still ongoing.  I’ve travelled back many times to attend court proceedings, interrupting my daily work at school and impacting my young family.

“The MA team at Edge Hill have been understanding and supportive from the very beginning, allowing me additional time to complete assignments and to submit my final thesis.  Two members of the faculty, Dr Linda Dunne and Christine Lewis, have been outstandingly supportive and I am immensely grateful to them for their encouragement and their belief in me.  That support, along with that of my wonderful husband, Gary, and my daughters has helped me through.”

When Andrea moved to the UK, she worked as a Special Needs and Learning Support Assistant in a local junior school and started a Nurture Group to cater for a number of vulnerable pupils.

“I chose to do my Masters at Edge Hill because of the wide range of interesting modules on offer,” said Andrea. “I wanted my studies to deepen my knowledge in the specialist area that I was working in so that I could apply what I was learning in a very practical way.

“There were elements of the course that surprised me in that I enjoyed them more than I thought I would and there were also elements that have enhanced and changed my practice enormously.”

Andrea’s ultimate goal was to produce a study that would be published, so that the findings could highlight the wonderful work of her fellow practitioners, and be shared with these inspirational people that helped her to create it.  Andrea has recently been notified that her dissertation will be published in an academic journal next year.

She plans to use the knowledge she has gained, academically and through her personal experiences, to support others in the future.

“In my work with some of the most vulnerable children in our communities over the past seven years, and in my own life experience, I have realised that people usually only require three things to overcome even the cruellest and most tragic of circumstances: inspiration, hope and support.

“Throughout my time at Edge Hill, I was inspired by the conviction, courage and compassion of my brother and that gave me the purpose and strength required to sit down at my desk each day and immerse myself in my research. I held on to the hope that in striving to learn and understand more, I could continue to make a difference in the lives of young people, thereby affecting society in a positive way; and with the loving support of my tutor and my wonderful family, friends and colleagues, I was able to reach the goal that I had set for myself.”

For more information about Edge Hill’s postgraduate Education courses here.