Tracey Wright, LLB Student
I was at a disadvantage throughout my school education and was never expected or encouraged to achieve. This was in part due to my traumatic childhood, the death of my mother when I was 12 and being placed in various foster placements. It is well documented that the outcomes for those who leave care are very poor, with many young people lacking in support and becoming homeless, in prison or dead by the age of 25. I was one of the 1% of young people to leave care and attend University in 2001 to undertake my first degree in social work.
Having worked in social work for 12 years, it was my latter experience within criminal justice social work that ignited my passion for learning more about the justice system. I took a risk and left secure employment to undertake an MSc in Criminal Justice and Penal change at the University of Strathclyde. Having left school with only one higher, I lacked confidence in my academic ability and had told myself that I was being too ambitious. When my first semester results came through I was in floods of tears after receiving merit grades. This was wholly unexpected, and it was an immense relief. It gave me the encouragement I needed to believe in myself going forward.
The course was incredibly stimulating, rewarding and exceeded my expectations. It challenged my thinking and gave me a much deeper understanding of the complexities within the legal system and motivated me to pursue a career in law.
I had concerns however about going beyond my capabilities; intellectually, practically and financially. I am a single parent to a wonderfully loving and creative 11 year-old boy. I have no parents for support, so everything I do, I do for my son and I so that we can have a stable future.
Meeting the cost of the course fees seemed like an impossible task. I was overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude when I was selected for the John Fitzsimons Scholarship. I feel honoured to be a John Fitzsimons scholar and it means so much having their belief in me. Without this funding, it would not have been possible to commence my law degree.
I am incredibly passionate about my future career in law and believe that my personal and professional experience be a valuable asset within the legal profession. Having been awarded the scholarship, I hope it will inspire other care experienced young people to overcome barriers to education and achieve their goals.
Brian Barclay, LLB Student
Studying Law at Strathclyde University has been an incredible privilege for me but it does not come without worry. As a mature student with four children and as a carer, it can be extremely challenging and perilous financially. I have questioned myself, second guessing if I am making the right decisions, wondering whether I have been putting my family at risk gambling their quality of life as I try to chase my dreams of a brighter future.
It is for these reasons that I am so appreciative of the support that has been provided for me by the John Fitzsimmons Memorial Scholarship Fund. Like John Fitzsimmons I am a mature law student and father and as such I have found myself in need of the extra support. It has made things easier for my children as much as it has myself and that in turn allows me to work harder without the feeling that I am letting my kids down, without feeling there is something else I should be doing. This has made a difference for me in the freedom that I can give to study and I cannot emphasise enough how much that helps with the stressful final weeks of a semester when assignments and exams are on the horizon. It has afforded me the time to enjoy the challenge and I would like to finally thank everyone involved with the contribution and organisation of this program.
Clare Thomson, LLB (Clinical) Student
When I received the email informing me that I had won a John Fitzsimons Memorial Scholarship award I was absolutely delighted because without it I would not have been able to commence my LLB studies. I am a working mother of four so meeting the full cost of the law fees, as a graduate entrant, was not a possibility for me. I feel incredibly fortunate to be benefiting from this fund, especially when there must be so many deserving applicants.
My journey to the point of embarking on the LLB has not been a particularly easy one and I honestly thought that I would never have that opportunity or the confidence to pursue it.
I was partly raised through the care system as there was no fit adult family member to care for me. To be honest it’s not something I would necessarily change as it was, for all its drawbacks, a positive experience. However, as a result I didn’t do particularly well at school and left as soon as I could and a few years later had my first son at 19 and my first daughter at 22.
My early life was quite difficult as I had no family to rely on and I suffered from a lack of confidence and self-esteem. Given my upbringing and circumstances, I didn’t dare entertain the prospect of studying law. Instead at 24, I pursued a less challenging route and went to college and did an HND and then continued on to complete a degree at the University of Paisley in a computing related field.
My oldest daughter had complex needs so it made it challenging to pursue a career and after having my younger son and daughter by the age of 31. It’s all been about fitting in work around them and making sure the bills were paid.
When I was made redundant from my job in the social housing sector almost 4 years ago I knew at that point I had to pursue some sort of career aligned with the law. I was lucky enough through my current job to able to study a Graduate Diploma in Law and become qualified as a paralegal. But as my confidence grew, I knew I had to take it further. I was honestly astonished when Strathclyde offered me a place!
My family commitments and work responsibilities mean life can be very busy and quite stressful and combining that with the LLB is tricky! But, I would not have it any other way, as is challenging as it is, it’s equally rewarding.
I am also delighted that I have been accepted to work at the Law Clinic and subsequently been able to transfer to the Accelerated Clinical LLB. It’s a very exciting time as I have just started work on my first case at the Clinic.
Without the help of the John Fitzsimons Memorial Fund none of this would be possible, I cannot possibly convey my gratitude. I will endeavour to do all that I can for the John Fitzsimons Memorial Fund as soon as I’m able to do so.
Clare McBride (Diploma in Legal Practice Student (Part-Time)
When I received a letter informing me that I had received financial assistance towards my first year of the part-time LLB course I was really happy. I am a working mother of three children. I also have a carer's role for dependents within my family. Because of these personal circumstances I changed from a fulltime teaching job to a job share position. My salary and my husband's does not stretch very far, so finding the funding for the law course was very worrying.
I have always wanted to study law, but haven't had the opportunity to do this up until now. The funding from the John Fitzsimmons Memorial Fund has made things a lot easier for me when trying to find payment for fees and books for the law course. Because of the family, and work responsibilities I have, my life can be very busy and very stressful. However, I really enjoy the law course, it's something for me, and it makes me really happy. I have met a lot of interesting and learned professors and many friends, have learned an awful lot about law in this first year alone, and I always look forward to my interesting evening lectures. All of this has been assisted greatly by the fund I received from the John Fitzsimons Memorial Fund. I am extremely grateful to the fund.