Three students who all fell pregnant and gave birth while in the middle of their degrees at Sunderland University have graduated.
Marie Hinds, Claire Fulcher and Stacey Walters all had their own personal reasons to make the decision to return to higher education fuelled by a passion to make a difference to other people’s lives through healthcare.
Their first year of their public health degrees were challenging however, by the second year the adult learners had coincidently all fallen pregnant within weeks of each other.
But rather than take a break from their degrees, the students carried on their studies, receiving support from their tutors as well as each other.
They all took a leave of absence to have their babies, then returned to complete the programme with impressive results and graduate at the University’s annual award ceremonies this week alongside thousands of other students, receiving their awards from Chancellor Steve Cram.
Stacey, 23, from Sunderland, said: “It was challenging because I was pregnant all of the second year, and had a baby boy, Lochlan, in the third year, I also have another six year old boy.
"But thanks to the support of my tutors and Marie and Claire, it was not too bad, it really helped and we just kept each other going through it all.”
Stacey now plans to complete a Masters in Public Health and work in the area of community health, helping people with drug and alcohol problems.
Former nursery nurse Marie, 38, from Newcastle, applied to study at university as she wanted to do “something for herself” after being a stay-at -home mum to her seven children for 10 years.
She said: “I found out I was pregnant with my son Grayson just before starting my second year and knowing that those grades counted towards my final marks, I wanted to stay at university for as long as possible and made sure I delivered my final presentation just seven days before giving birth.
“I was tired, but determined to meet all the deadlines and perform as well as I possibly could.
"Having two other classmates pregnant at the same time - Stacey due just a week before myself - was a great support with the three of us reassuring each other and becoming very close friends."
Marie will now take what she has learned both personally and academically to begin a Midwifery Postgraduate Diploma at Northumbria University starting in September.
Claire, 28, from Bedlington, in Northumberland decided to swap her day job in a call centre for a career in healthcare.
She said: "As a first time mum, it definitely helped that two of my fellow students were going through the same thing at the same time, we were able to discuss problems both pregnancy and uni related.
“After completing my second year pregnant and third year with a newborn, it's sounds cheesy but I'm actually really proud of myself for completing and achieving a 2:1.”
Claire is currently applying for a Masters in Psychology with a view to working in the area of Health Psychology in the future.
Karen Carling, senior lecturer – programme leader BSc (Hons) Public Health, said: “I am extremely proud of all the graduates as they are the first ones that I have seen progress through the degree as programme lead.
"Claire, Marie and Stacey have achieved so much despite all taking a Leave of Absence to have babies.
"They all returned to their studies and completed the programme with exceptional results."