Friday 29 July 2016

Trevor Balwin

It’s a double celebration for a Criminology graduate who returned to education aged 53, as he graduates from the University of Northampton and secures a new role supporting young people.

Trevor Baldwin, who lives in Barton Seagrave with his partner Danielle and seven-year-old daughter, Jorja, was working for a local firm in 2012 when his world turned upside down. “I was working at a joinery factory in Thrapston, until one Tuesday afternoon I left work and was hit by a car. I hurt my back, and once I recovered I tried to go back to my job, but it involved a lot of heavy lifting and I was unable to continue.

“I was in a lot of pain, and in a bad place mentally. I was applying for jobs, claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance, and not knowing what to do with my days. One morning I went out for a walk with my young daughter, in her pushchair, and I found myself on a flyover. I thought about doing the unspeakable.”

What changed Trevor’s life was a chat with his son-in-law. “Simon, who was studying graphic design at the University of Northampton, asked if I had considered university. I laughed at him: ‘Me? It’s not for me. I’m too old. What would I study?’ But I knew I needed to focus on something else, and as I have a passion for crime thrillers I chose Criminology.“

“I sent in three applications to the University of Northampton; joint Criminology / Sociology, Criminology / Psychology, and single honours Criminology. I received a rejection letter. Then another. Then a third letter came from Paula Bowles, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, who was interested in my application. She asked me to write a 500 word essay about why I wanted to come to university. The essay took me a whole two weeks to write, but I sent it off and a week or so later my application was accepted.

“On the day of enrolment, I was petrified. I took my eldest daughter, Vicky, with me – no chance I was going to go on my own. On the way to registration we met another lady, mature like myself, who looked equally petrified – she was enrolling for Criminology too, and we stuck together. By the time enrolment was over, I’d met seven or eight people who become close friends.

“My lecturers were all brilliant. I’d class them all as friends, and they have all been there for me throughout my degree. As my course got underway and I got to know other students, I began to feel bad. I had come to university with a 500 word essay, and I felt guilty that I hadn’t done anything academic – no A levels or an access course. I questioned whether I really deserved to be here. I met with Paula, who said ‘it doesn’t matter what you start off with – a full set of A-star grades or an abundance of life skills – all students start on the same footing’.

“I may not have had academic skills, but I did have communication skills – which improved throughout university. I learnt how to write, and how to listen. I learnt how to communicate with people of all ages, from different backgrounds. I learnt about teamwork.”

Trevor has now graduated and secured a new role, which he is in training for. He will be working as a Secure Training Officer at Oakhill Secure Training Centre, working with young people aged between 12-17 years of age who have been remanded or sentenced to periods of detention.  His role will be supporting young people, by communicating with them, getting to know them as individuals and ensuring they learn new life skills in a safe environment. The young people have between 25-30 hours training a week at the Centre, learning subjects such as maths and English, as well as vocational skills such as carpentry and gardening, cooking, cleaning and exercise.

“My degree has given me the skills I need for this role; so many times already I have been able to relate my learning into my new job. Criminology has shown me that it is important to support young people early on, and help them to understand that they are going in the wrong direction.

Over 60 per cent of students at the University of Northampton are aged over 21 at the start of their studies, and considered to be mature. Trevor has the following advice for other people considering taking the plunge and starting Higher Education: “Age is no barrier. You should not let lack of knowledge be a decisive factor in whether YOU are capable of going to university. I didn’t see it in myself, but my family and the University saw the potential in me when I doubted myself. I had laughed at my son-in-law when he suggested university, but why shouldn’t it have been me? Why shouldn’t it be you?

“University has been an enjoyable journey and I have made friends for life.  It has changed my life completely. Now, at 56, I’m a University graduate. I’m the first in my family. ‘Graduate’ is a nice label, and one I’m proud to have. I’m embarking on a new adventure at the age of 56.”

To find out more about courses at the University of Northampton, visit our website. UCAS have published a guide for mature students, which is available here. The University of Northampton’s Students’ Union has a Mature Student Association, find out more here.

 

Pictured: main – Trevor with son-in-law Simon, top: Trevor with friend, Amy, middle: Trevor with partner Danielle and daughter Vicky, bottom: Trevor with friend, Jackie.

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