Graduate tales: Vicki's helping youngsters with the same challenges she faced as a teen

Vicki Waters, pictured with her son Jack, has graduated from the University of South Wales with a degree in youth work. Neil Gibson, July 2018

Vicki, with her son Jack, has completed a degree in youth work, and has already secured a job

VICKI Waters will readily admit that she didn’t like school, and couldn’t wait to leave.

Having been taught in a pupil referral unit during the final years before she left full-time education, it’s even more surprising that she went on to become a teaching assistant.

Now, however, life for the mum of one has gone full circle, as she graduates from the University of South Wales (USW) with a degree in youth work, and is starting a job support youngsters who had similar challenges to those she faced as a teenager.

“School really wasn’t right for me and I rebelled massively,” explained Vicki, who lives in Cwmbran and went to school in the town.

“I was struggling with school and the learning side of things, didn’t want to be there, and had anger issues.

“The referral unit really helped me deal with these problems, taught me life lessons, and how to live independently.”

Having left school and worked at a call centre for a couple of years, Vicki decided she wanted to a career which would give her more fulfilment, so went back to college to get teaching assistant qualifications.

“It was quite a funny career choice considering I had hated school,” she said.

Having worked with children for a couple of years, Vicki again looked at what she wanted to achieve, and a comment from her childhood kept coming back into her mind.

“I was once told that I’d never achieve anything. Perhaps that’s why I rebelled in school. I didn’t see the point of trying if I was going to fail,” Vicki explained.

“But I was determined to achieve my goal, and I had always wanted to be involved in youth work because of how it had helped me. I saw the opportunity to do a degree at USW, and took the plunge.”

However, Vicki’s time at university hasn’t been without challenges.

“At the end of the first year I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it,” Vicki said. “It was a battle managing my time at uni and looking after Jack, who’s now seven, and everything else. I was close to packing it in.”

However, a face from Vicki’s past helped her push ahead with her degree, and the support she received from everyone at USW ensured she made the grade.

“One of the tutors on the course – Kate Haywood – worked at the referral unit, and remembered me saying back then that I would one day like to do the same job. I didn’t think I’d be good enough or able to do a degree,” Vicki said.

“But the tutors have been amazing. They could see I was struggling and gave me the help I needed to get through. Without them I’d have been lucky to pass, never mind get 2.2 honours.”

Having graduated, Vicki has proved that returning to learning has worked for her.

“I’m starting a new job this month with a youth worker with Torfaen Youth Service, delivering alternative education,” she said.

“I’m doing what I set my heart on all those years ago. My life experience has given me an understanding of what the youngsters are going through, what support they need, and how I can help them manage those situations and emotions.

“I couldn’t be happier. Before I’d set myself up to fail before I started, but now I know I can do it, I’ve proved that. All the jigsaw pieces have finally fallen into place.”

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