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Education and determination: Shelley's story

We want to share with you the story of Shelley Thomas, 47, from Cwmbran. Shelley applied to Melin’s Jump2 fund six years ago for some help towards the cost of further education. She recently reached out to us to say thanks and so we wanted to take the opportunity to catch up with Shelley and learn about her amazing journey through education and onto an amazing new career path…

Written by Will

07 Sep, 2023

A Melin Homes logo containing the words 'Jump 2'

Shelley, a single mother of four children (now aged 15, 17, 21 and 22) made what would turn out to be a life-changing decision six years ago. She enrolled in a legal studies access course at the University of South Wales (USW) with the aim of getting on to a law degree.

Shelley initially struggled to access funding (student finance only opened-up to her once on a formal law degree) and so she applied to our Jump2 fund for some help with the costs of her studies. Melin’s support helped Shlley along and she was then able to enroll on a Bachelor of Law degree at USW where, last academic year, she graduated with a well-deserved 2:1.

Two women in a selfie style photo wearing a graduation cap and gown
Shelley (pictured right) graduated from the University of South Wales with a 2.1 in Law

Shelley relished the experience of doing her degree and found joy in learning about current legal affairs and delving into case studies. She now has an exciting career pathway ahead of her as she recently landed a job as a Residential Worker for the Interventions Alliance on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.

Once through vetting, Shelley will work with released offenders in approved accommodation. Her role will be to support ex-offenders in their rehabilitation journey, helping them to access accommodation, supporting them with life skills and supporting their re-integration. Shelley is particularly focusing on female ex-offenders who have faced domestic violence, an issue close to her heart due to her own experiences.

Shelley has also set a strong direction for her career to come as well, with her ambition to become a probation officer once she has gained more on-the-job experience.

Shelley's journey was not without challenges. Before pursuing her degree, she contemplated leaving Cwmbran due to the lingering effects of an abusive relationship. However, a friend's advice encouraged her to stand her ground, take the initiative and get back into education. With this, she embarked on her further education journey. Shelley also wasn’t helped by the pandemic which meant her studies took a couple of years longer than she had planned.

Balancing studies with raising four children and working as a self-employed cleaner was a tough challenge. Managing work, school runs and assignments took focus and self-discipline, and her children's understanding and support played a crucial role in making this happen. She is rightly very proud of them.

Shelley’s story is one of resilience, determination, and personal growth. Her transformation from a survivor of domestic violence to an advocate for change and rehabilitation is inspirational. Through her work ethic and determination, Shelley has not only bettered herself but also discovered the profound value of her independence. Her new role promises security and fulfillment, reinforcing the idea that with determination and the right support, we can overcome any obstacle on the path to success. She is now going to be working to make her community a better place and will be making a massive difference to people’s lives.

Shelley has a clear message to those who have returned to education later in life. She said: “Just keep going. No matter how bad things seem, they do get better. Seek out opportunities because they don’t just fall in your lap.

You have got to be persistent but have faith that you will get there. You will have all the trials of life coming at you while you study, but it is all worthwhile in the end.

Shelley Thomas — Melin resident

We think Shelley has done excellently and we would like to thank her for sharing her story with us.

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