Single mum from Milton Keynes overcomes traumatic past to shine at graduation

Cherrie Ball
Cherrie Ball

A single mum with a chaotic past overcame adversity to graduate from the University of Bedfordshire with a first class degree.

Cherrie Ball, 32, had a difficult childhood due to a chaotic family life and drug addiction. She was expelled from school when she was 13 and for most of her life, was told she would never achieve anything, so she lacked confidence and self-belief.

Cherrie Ball

Cherrie Ball

However, thanks to the support of her tutors and fellow students Cherrie collected her first class degree in Criminology & Sociology at a graduation ceremony last week. She was also awarded the Applied Social Studies Personal Development Prize, which is awarded to a student who has overcome academic or personal challenges to succeed in their studies.

On receiving the award, Cherrie, who lives in Milton Keynes, said: “Coming from not even thinking I would be able to get a degree to getting a first and winning awards, it’s overwhelming and it’s all thanks to the support of my peers and lecturers – they all deserve a prize because they are so committed.”

Cherrie was working as a cleaner when, after a difficult day at work, she decided she wanted do to something more positive for herself and her daughter.

“It got to a point when it wasn’t a case of wanting to do something – I had to do something, to provide a better future for myself and my daughter – she was a massive motivator for me,” said Cherrie.

The first few weeks at the University were daunting for Cherrie, but she soon made friends and began to excel in her studies.

“I had been out of education for over a decade and the first few weeks of university were absolutely terrifying. When I got my first assignment back, I got an A, I couldn’t believe it. I was so sure it was a mistake, I took it back to my tutor to ask if it was right.”

As well as excelling academically, Cherrie received support from the University with her mental health issues. It was a university counsellor that helped her get a diagnosis of complex PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as a result of the trauma she suffered growing up.

“I really think university saved me. Bedfordshire taught me that is it OK to be me and that I should believe in myself. To anyone who might be considering university – just do it! It’s better to regret something you do rather than something you don’t do.”