Rochelle Watson studies Health, Social Care and Education at Kingston University. She has been involved in a number of initiatives to empower young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, including being a mentor with a social-enterprise, Spiral; volunteering with Kingston Welcare, a service aimed at promoting the holistic wellbeing of children and families via a range of projects, sessions and events; and designing a programme of support for young carers for the 2018 Bright Ideas Competition.
Rochelle won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Charity and the Third Sector at the 2018 Student Social Mobility Awards.
Tell us a bit about your journey to winning an award at the Student Social Mobility Awards.
Prior to starting my journey in Higher Education I worked as a Healthcare assistant on a specialist cardiology ward. This professional experience alongside being a young carer for over ten years strongly influenced my decision to go into Higher Education. However, I did not have the traditional qualifications to enrol immediately onto the undergraduate course of my choice, having attended a PRU (Pupil Referral Unit). I opted to study a foundation degree to access my current undergraduate degree.
What does social mobility mean to you, and what do you do to promote it?
I would describe social mobility as equal opportunity to access job roles, settings or social groups despite your class, socio-economic background, disability, gender or race. It also means creating more inclusive spaces to cultivate the social capital of marginalised groups in society. My undergraduate degree values the holistic wellbeing of children, adolescents and families. Socio-economic empowerment and education can positively impact the emotional, intellectual, social and physical welfare of children and families. Social mobility and equality have been one of the most important principles I have learnt throughout my degree, which has inspired me to contribute to this social movement.
Since the Student Social Mobility Awards, I met with the new Universities Minister Chris Skidmore to speak about my experience of being a young adult carer and single parent whilst being a full-time student. This meeting was briefly captured on Good Morning Britain. In March 2019, my son and I travelled to Bradford for the Black students NUS conference as I am part of Kingston Union’s Student Council. As a result of my role as Senior Course Representative for my faculty, I have been nominated for the 2019 Academic Impact Awards at Kingston University.
Through my academic work I have explored various social barriers affecting children and young people accessing professional, academic and social opportunities. My colleague Jess Gill and I created a drama service supporting young carers affected by parental mental health for one of our final year modules, ‘Developing Creative Approaches to Working with Children and Young People’.
What advice would you give to students just starting out at university?
Student engagement, self-development and self-care are vital components to student achievement in Higher Education.
To get the best out of Higher Education, students’ ought to engage and participate in faculty events, volunteer at their universities’ student hub or become a student ambassador to support widening participation.
Coming towards the end of the first year of my course, I used reflective frameworks to identify strengths, weakness and opportunities to improve my overall academic performance. This experience enabled me to acknowledge smaller achievements which motivated me to work towards greater successes within and outside of my course.
Students should not wait to celebrate their academic and professional achievements once they have graduated, but should celebrate their achievements throughout their studies.