Teenage mum puts critics to shame as she graduates from university

By Claire Dukes - 5 September 2018

CommunityOpinion and FeaturesEducation

A teenage mum from Walcot has proved critics wrong after graduating with Honors from Birmingham City University.

  • Sarah with her sons Reece, 20, and Kieron, 15

    Sarah with her sons Reece, 20, and Kieron, 15

After falling pregnant at 16, Sarah Fenwick, now 36, left school and became a full-time mum. Previously told by teachers that she wouldn’t amount to anything, she has walked away with a degree in Health and Social Care.

After working at the Card Factory for seven years Sarah decided she needed a change. She accompanied a friend to an evening class at New College, which led to her enrolling to study health care for five years. This year she graduated from Birmingham City University.

Sarah said: “I’ve had a lot of stick in the past, and still get it now, for being a teenage mum – we're told we're sluts. I was told I would make nothing of my life.”

Sarah now wants to support teenage mums to help them achieve their goals. As a full-time job Sarah works at her local pharmacy but also volunteers at Women's Refuge, and is an Appropriate Adult as part of a Youth Offending Team -  looking after young offenders in custody. She believes there is not enough support in place for young children and teenagers who have gone astray.

She said: "I’m not saying to get pregnant as a teenager, – I would not recommend it, it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done – but these things happen and there should be the appropriate support put into place.

“It’s a confidence thing – they’re either told that they can’t do it or they have a lack of support. I want to help them not feel like they’re worthless.”

Sarah has since been with her partner, Barry Fenwick, for the past 15 years. She said: "I could not have done it without him. Everything I’ve done he’s been so supportive, always telling me ‘you can do it’.”

Despite her achievements, Sarah believes that young mums are still vulnerable and not receiving the right guidance - that they are still subjected to criticism and stigmas. As a former pupil of Commonweal School she said she felt abandoned after telling the school that she was pregnant.

Sarah added: “I should have been encouraged to stay at school, I feel. I’m hoping it’s because of me that my sons realise they need an education.”

Ray Dawson, a Motivational Coach, met Sarah three years ago. He said: "I first met Sarah when I put out an appeal for people to walk a mile for the charity Sabrina's Mile. Sarah was the very first person in Swindon to email me to say 'I'm in' for doing a mile to help people with diabetes in Swindon. She also helped out on raffle stalls and has been a brilliant motivational speaker and a willing contributor to various courses in Swindon designed to help people believe in themselves. She has inspired many people to follow their dreams.

"Sarah told me that if only one person is inspired by her story to say 'Yes I can' instead of 'No I can't', then she will feel she has made a difference. Getting the degree was her dream. She believed it could be done and now she has achieved it."

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