In June 2009 I graduated with a BSc from the Open University.  For someone who didn’t enjoy school and was painfully shy, never wanting to put her hand up in class to give an answer or ask a question, for fear of drawing attention to herself, this felt like a huge achievement.


I always tried hard in school but the grades I got for effort, never matched my attainment grades, which were often disappointingly low. I left school at 16 years of age having convinced myself that it wasn’t the place for me but when I told my English teacher I was going out to work, she told me I could do better for myself than that. It was as I recall, a short exchange of words but it was the first time anyone had indicated they thought I could achieve anything – the words stayed with me, niggling way, until eventually I embarked on my first course of study, some 15 years after I had left school.

I began with a short course about The Human Genome, a subject I was interested in because I am diagnosed with a genetic condition. The course was only for a few weeks long but it gave me a chance to get back into learning and also get into distance learning, which is quite different to studying in a classroom and requires much more discipline.

Having passed the Human Genome Course, I began a second short course, this time to study essay writing, which I decided would be valuable if I was committing to long term study.  Then I studied social sciences, computing, Leonardo da Vinci, religion, media and my final course was innovation in which I gained a distinction for the my project to design an all terrain wheelchair. I created a blog for the duration of the project which can be viewed below.

Steps and a shiny floor are not a good combination for someone with a neuromuscular condition and as I watch the film my dad took of me graduating, it really shows but I was so proud of myself that day and even more so when I watch the film and hear my dad shouting as I collect my award – I didn’t hear that on the day, as we were sat miles apart, although I see me looking for him and having safely reached the foot of the stairs I remember turning and giving him a big wave, as I now knew he was sat somewhere up in the Gods.

It took me six years to get my degree while working full time and it wasn’t easy for me but in terms of personal development it was an amazing thing to do and something no one can take away from me.  The skills I learned will last a lifetime.

Toni’s graduation: 5 June 2009, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

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