Offering a listening ear to customers at her Sudbury sandwich shop has led Jacqueline Berry to a prize for being the outstanding student of the year on her counselling course at West Suffolk College.
Mrs Berry has run JC’s Sandwich Shop in North Street for the past 16 years but it was the experience of knowing someone who had counselling on the phone that sparked her interest.
“People do chat to me and I have had to keep a lot of secrets,” she said. “I have always had a keen interest in people.”
Having left school at 15, the 57-year-old did not expect to be returning to learning, but she enrolled first on the introduction to counselling evening course at the college in Bury St Edmunds and then took the one year access to counselling diploma.
Mrs Berry admitted the two-day-a-week course “had been a struggle” as she was trying to run her business and spend a further two days on the coursework.
She added: “It’s been a huge learning curve, but I have loved learning and being at the college. The pride you get in yourself is amazing.
“My tutor Jackie Ayling has inspired me and believed in me from the word go, I would never have got through without her support, encouragement and belief in me.”
She said she was “blown away” when she discovered she had won the Outstanding Access to HE Student of the Year Counselling award.
Now she wants to become a counsellor and has been accepted on the counselling degree course, hoping to sell her business so she can concentrate on her newfound career.
Course director Mrs Ayling said: “Jackie has shown outstanding commitment to her academic and counselling skills. Though there have been some struggles along the way, her dedication to her course has never wavered, and is living proof of how returning to education can be life changing.”