A single-parent who overcame multiple sclerosis to complete a degree has been awarded for her exceptional progress.
Paula Clerkin, from Glemsford, was presented with the Lloyds Bank Shield Award when she graduated with an undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology from University Campus Suffolk.
After she became a single parent, the mum-of-two decided to improve her job prospects by beginning a degree at UCS in Bury St Edmunds.
“After my husband left, I realised that I would have to become the main breadwinner,” said Paula.
“But I had spent the previous few years looking after my small children and, when I looked at my CV, I realised that I couldn’t go back to the type of work I used to do.”
The 42-year-old used to work in factories but she knew her MS would prevent her from returning.
Before starting her course, Paula thought university was off limits for someone with only a handful of GCSEs but, after completing an Access to Higher Education course, she was able to join the undergraduate degree.
Paula, however, discovered that student life was not all easy going as she juggled studying, caring for her sons – George, 12, and Jack, nine – and her illness.
“I have the type of multiple sclerosis called relapsing and remitting, which means that, at some points, I am more affected by the disease than others,” she said.
“During the worst times, when I knew I needed lots of support, my two sons and I actually moved in with my parents for a couple of weeks.
“I couldn’t have managed to do this degree without them.”