Eight women from Tees Valley Women’s Centre (TVWC), a community hub dedicated to empowering vulnerable women, celebrated graduating from their Access to Higher Education course delivered at the centre.

All eight women have secured a place at Teesside University as a result of their training.

The Access to HE course, delivered by national education and training provider, Learning Curve Group (LCG), offers individuals a pathway to higher education, with the ultimate aim of supporting them in their journey into their dream career.

The graduates, Stephanie Acquah, Amanda Briddick, Sarah McKittrick-Cunningham, Elizabeth Quinn, Victoria Leither, Katie Pears-Robinson, Donna Morris, and Donna Small, have been completing their course for almost a year, with many of them having now achieved their English and Mathematics qualifications.

Designed to provide skills, support and opportunities to individuals who need that extra push to get into university, the Access to HE course, combined with the dedication of the learners to their personal and professional growth, has resulted in the successful place for all eight women at Teesside University.

Each of the eight ladies have been accepted onto a Bachelor of Science degree course. Katie and Stephanie were accepted onto the Midwifery course, Elizabeth secured her place on the Child Nursing Studies course, whilst the other ladies look forward to starting their Adult Nursing Studies course.

The Tees Valley Women’s Centre is a voluntary grassroots venture and registered charity providing a one-stop shop for women in a non-threatening safe environment. The centre offers one-to-one support, advice and guidance, training and education, and employment opportunities to help improve the wellbeing and quality of life for local women.

“We are immensely proud of our women and the transformation they have undergone during their Access to HE course,” said Donna Middleton, Centre Manager at TVWC. “Their achievements really showcase the power of education and training in uplifting lives and removing barriers. Our partnership with Learning Curve Group is fantastic as it helps us to support and empower the ladies that come into our centre by making education accessible and re-engaging individuals who may have not been in education for a while.”

The ceremony took place at Tees Valley Women’s Centre, located in South Bank, Middlesbrough. Graduates celebrated amongst family and friends, TVWC staff, and LCG tutors and representatives, who have all supported the ladies through their journey. Chief Operating Officer at LCG, Emma Barrett-Peel attended to hand out the ladies’ certificates and congratulate them on their achievements.

Jacob Young MP was also there to congratulate the learners, commenting “It has been really inspiring to see the fantastic achievements of these eight women from the Tees Valley Women’s Centre, today. Their achievements highlight the amazing power of education and the importance of partnerships between large organisations like LCG, and community support venues like TVWC in positively changing people’s lives in the region. I wish the women the best of luck on their academic journey at Teesside University, and beyond.”

One of the women graduating, Donna Small, started her family at age 19 and has struggled throughout her life to juggle her work, studies and raising five children but has always had ambitions of improving her career prospects and escaping the world of retail.

Donna said, “Since starting this course, my confidence has grown massively, and it has given me the chance to do something for myself instead of others. I am really looking forward to studying at Teesside University as it is something I never thought I would be able to do. I honestly wouldn’t have been able to complete this course if it wasn’t for the brilliant women alongside me, especially [my tutor]. This course has changed my life for the better.”

Emma Barrett-Peel, COO of LCG, said “We are so proud of these incredible ladies who have overcome their personal battles and previous hardships to achieve absolutely amazing results. They should all be extremely proud of how far they have come. Events like this are an amazing reminder of why it’s so important that we create partnerships with community centres like TVWC, so we can continue having positive impacts on the lives of our community’s most vulnerable members together”.

The ceremony was joined by Jo Burgess, Director of Professional Apprentices, at  Teesside University and Rachel Morris, Principal Lecturer in the School of Health & Life Sciences.

Jo and Rachel said: “We extend our warm congratulations to the eight remarkable women from Tees Valley Women’s Centre on their outstanding achievements in completing their Access to Higher Education course. We are thrilled to welcome them to our university as they begin their Bachelor of Science courses. Like Learning Curve Group and Tees Valley Women’s Centre, we are committed to providing opportunities for all individuals and we are delighted that these two local organisations are helping to create pathways for personal and professional growth in the Tees Valley.”

LCG deliver the Access to HE courses both online and in person at venues like TVWC which particularly targets disadvantaged areas to ensure that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are made aware of the opportunities they can access. Those interested in signing up and anyone involved in community venues, like Tees Valley Women’s Centre, who are interested in running similar courses from their premises can contact LCG on training@learningcurvegroup.co.uk.