“I believed I could do more than what I learnt at school”

Posted on: 19 October 2016

Lizzie Addison and Star Spencer, two inspiring learners from our courses at Bideford Arts Centre, have had their learning journeys published in a new book, “Resilience: Stories of Adult Learning”. Here, we share their journeys…

lizzie-addisonLizzie Addison

“I started my first course at Bideford Arts Centre four years ago. I am visually impaired and I decided to do some courses to help me become more independent.

“I believed that I could do more than what I had learnt at school. I did not do any English, maths or ICT at school. Things I did at school were learning to clean, learning to help in the nursery and to look after the flowers and plants. We used to cook our own lunches with some help.

“I learnt about adult learning when I came to The Hub in the same building where they ran the courses. I registered for my first course which was English and maths and learnt so much that I decided to keep on learning.

“I also believed that doing more courses would help me to communicate easier and understand more things better. I did some art courses and continued my English and maths. I started using the computer and soon my ICT skills got better. I have given some Powerpoint presentations in class which made me feel good and happy. The art courses helped me to do creative things.

“I realised that being visually impaired doesn’t have to stop you from making beautiful things. When I started to use a computer I learnt to type with my special keyboard and that helped me to spell some words myself. I soon learnt to make Powerpoint presentations and do research on Google.

“I have now started working in a charity shop. Without the maths skills I learnt I would not be able to work with money and on a till. I also deal with customers. I got the confidence to work with people by being part of adult learning.

“My life has changed a lot since I enrolled onto my first course.

“I have met lots of different people and realised that I am good at working in a team. I participated in art exhibitions and I welcomed the public at the door and showed them to the drinks counter. I would never have dreamt of doing so before I started the courses.

“My money skills have got better since doing maths and I now have the confidence to pay for things myself when I get the chance.

“I think doing the courses has changed me as a person. I feel very proud of myself for what I have achieved. I have got loads of certificates for my hard work and I feel confident that the future will bring more happy things for me.”

star-spencerStar Spencer

“I was born prematurely on July the 25th 1984 after a three-day labour.

“I could not walk until I was three years old. Dad told me the funny story of how he put some sweets on the table and I got up and walked to get them. He was amazed. It was a big achievement overcoming that.

“By the time I was in my twenties I was living independently, with a carer to help. I did courses with the Prince’s Trust in 2009 and when that finished I didn’t want to just do nothing with my life, I wanted more.

“I came to Devon Adult and Community Learning (now known as Learn Devon) at the Bideford Arts Centre six years ago. I felt very down about the way I looked at the time. I started my learning here with Everyday Maths and English and other courses such as Work Matters, Drama Matters and Movie Making.

“With the support of our tutor we got our fundraising team (‘The FUNdraisers’) together. We have done a number of charity events and raised money for Shelter Box, Kira Farm in Uganda and Toilet Twinning. The one I enjoyed the most was my very first event with the team, Winter Wonderland dance.

“Adult learning has made me think that I can achieve more in life and it has added to my quality of life. I have met different people on the way with different hobbies, dreams and hopes for their future too.

“Through my hard work I received an adult learners’ award (now Festival of Learning) in 2012* with a ceremony at a very posh hotel in Weston-super-Mare. I even got to meet the eighties icon Cheryl Baker from Bucks Fizz. Never in my life would I have expected to meet a celebrity. It was the highlight of my year and while receiving my award I had three cuddles from the great lady herself.

“I like to think that we have made friendships for life here in the groups at Bideford Learn Devon, as they do really make you feel very welcome. Being here is like a support group and a self-made family too.

“Being at Learn Devon and having new skills has made me not shy away from things and not freeze. It has made me feel I can achieve anything I put my mind to. It has also given me the skills to have the confidence to get a job. As a result of these courses I also believe that I would meet a partner at some time in my life and build our lives together.”

*Certificate of Achievement (South West)

You can read more inspiring learning journeys, including that of another Learn Devon learner, the late Patrick Sellick, in the book “Resilience: Stories of Adult Learning” from RaPAL.