Forty-eight-year-old Gail Ennis, a retired police officer, and her son Ben Jones, 24, embarked on their university journey alongside one another three years ago.
Gail, from Southport, said: “I presumed I’d missed my chance at going to university, but when I visited Edge Hill with Ben, I realised that it could still be a possibility. I had the relevant entry qualifications, but it had been a long time since I’d been in a classroom. Juggling raising a family while working for many years, you lose your confidence a little, so I asked about doing the Fastrack course. It really helped in reassuring me that I was capable.”
Ben, who had taken a year out to volunteer in Fiji where he gained his diving qualification, knew a degree would help with his dream of owning his own dive shack and so applied to Edge Hill too.
“I asked Ben if he’d mind me going to the same university,” said Gail. “I knew it could go one of two ways and at first he wasn’t happy at all. Luckily for us it worked out just fine. We chose different subjects, so we had different lessons. Although I told Ben to pretend I wasn’t there, we spent a lot of time together and now have the same friends.”
For Gail and Ben, volunteering while studying was a big passion of theirs. Gail supported Childline and volunteered with the Independent Monitoring Board ensuring the fair treatment of prisoners, something she hopes to continue.
Gail said: “During lockdown when everything closed, I was lucky enough to continue going to the prison to volunteer. Volunteering is a privilege not everyone has the opportunity to do it. I was able to gain over 200 hours earning points, which led to a top Extra Edge Award.”
Ben who has been awarded three scholarships during his time at Edge Hill is also an avid volunteer. He set up the University’s Eco Garden Society on campus and maintained the allotment during the first lockdowns. He also volunteers with the National Trust and is a regular cleaning the boardwalk at Formby beach.
Ben, who has graduated with a 2:1 in BSc (Hons) Ecology and Conservation, said: “My experience of lockdown was very different to my mum, I was in Sweden during the summer where they closed the boarders and applied herd immunity, there was no mask wearing and shops and bars were open. This meant that in September when I was due to go to Gothenburg University on the Erasmus scheme, I was allowed to travel.”
Gail, who achieved a First in BA (Hons) Childhood Youth and Criminology, said: “I’m so proud of Ben gaining a degree but I’m also proud of achieving my dream, it’s given me a new lease of life, helping with my confidence, gaining new skills and meeting new people. It really has been a lovely experience and I’m sad to leave.”
To find out more about studying at Edge Hill, visit www.edgehill.ac.uk/courses.