Graduation tales: Jade’s trip from McDonald’s to Mind

Jade Sallis has just graduated from the University of South Wales (USW) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Counselling. Neil Gibson

Jade Sallis

WHEN Jade Sallis was 21, she was working full time in McDonald’s and thought she didn’t have the intelligence to go to university.

But the 25-year-old from Pontypool has just graduated from the University of South Wales (USW) with a Psychology and Counselling degree and has already secured a full-time job.

Having decided that she wasn’t going to study for A-levels after leaving school, Jade started work at McDonald’s, while also attending college, and eventually worked her way up to manager. But she decided that she wanted to take a different route.

“I knew I didn't want to carry on doing that forever, so made the decision to go to university full time and just work one day a week,” she said.

However, having made the decision to go into higher education, Jade wasn’t sure she could follow her dream.

“Because I did not study A-levels at college, I thought I'd have to do two years before starting my degree course, thought I was too old, being 22 at the time, and not intelligent enough for University,” she said.

But Jade discovered that nothing was further from the truth.

“I went to an open day and learnt all about the access and foundation courses available, and decided to do social studies,” she said.

“This was only for one year, and gave me the qualifications to secure a place on a degree course. I also met lots of people of many different ages and backgrounds, which really helped to build my confidence.

Jade added that the one-year course also helped her decide that she wanted to pursue her love of psychology, after previously gained a qualification in counselling skills.

“I was thrilled that the Psychology and Counselling degree became British Psychological Society accredited. It was an extra reason to follow my dream,” she said.

“Psychology is a very broad area, so knew that I would learn and find out what aspects I enjoyed most, and the counselling modules have given me a stepping stone if I want to pursue them in the future.”

Having changed direction, Jade threw herself into her study, and decided she wanted to get some first-hand experience of the work she would be doing once she graduated.

“Alongside of my degree, I started volunteering with TorfaenMind for one day a week at the end of my first year,” she explained. “I carried this on throughout my years of study.

“The placement was not a compulsory part of my course, but I wanted to boost my job prospects in every way possible.

“I gained so much experience working in a mental health charity, which covers a massive area of support, and last summer was able to shadow an employee to get a better understanding of their work.”

The volunteering really paid off for Jade, who bagged her dream job before she had even graduated.

“In April, Mind offered me a full-time job as First Contact and Support Worker, I was over the moon,” she said.

“Although finishing my dissertation at the same time was hard, I had finished all my lectures so managed to get through it. I have also completed the Suicide Assist Course, Understanding Eating Disorders and Sexual Violence Training through my job, and am still learning which areas I enjoy.” 

And Jade has some good advice for people who think that attending university could be for them.

“This course changed my life and put me on to a stable, salaried job with brilliant co-workers and employees,” she said.

“I would recommend anyone who isn't sure which exact area of counselling or psychology they want to study to follow this course as it gives so many opportunities, and …. volunteer! It shows hard work and determination, and the best part was it only took me five hours a week, so my studies did not suffer.

“I am interested in studying a Masters or postgraduate qualification, but not sure what in yet, so I'm going to enjoy spending my wages for a year first. 

“I have gone straight into a full-time job and booked a two-week holiday to the Caribbean as my reward for four years of hard work paying off.”

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