Clara Collins, 21, is proof that it’s never too late to turn things around. After experiencing a disrupted education and spending time in care, Clara is now studying Law with The Open University (OU) and determined to use her skills to advocate for others.
She shares how she now has the right support to change life for her and her young son – and to make a positive difference to future generations:
“I feel like I've gone through quite a journey in my life. I’ve had ups and downs and needed quite a lot of support. I think about my son a lot and I think about him growing up and I would really hate for him to face the life hurdles that I had.
“I think that is one of my biggest aspirations, to be able to try and make a difference and try and help the new generations that are going to be entering this world.”
Clara, who lives in Pembrokeshire, began studying Law with the OU in Wales at just 18 years old. After admitting she didn’t reach her potential in school, she’s now putting that right and has begun working with Citizens Advice:
“I was given the opportunity by The Open University's Career and Employability service to have work experience with Citizens Advice. This turned into a part time paid job as a BAME Generalist Advisor allowing me to help and give a voice to those in my local community who really need it. Some of the subjects with the clients at Citizens Advice can range from employment, education, benefits, housing, family, immigration, health and even consumer rights. I am also Debt and Money trained through the Money & Pension Service. This has tied in really well with my degree and it has really broadened my skill set.
“I definitely have more confidence since the degree. I really doubted myself but being able to do this has opened up so many different networks. I was really grateful to be able to do it and knowing that there is going to be a life after university is just really good for me. It's definitely a positive.”
With a young son and her Citizens Advice role to juggle, being able to study flexibly is vital for Clara. Having others to share her journey with is also important and from the start, Clara knew that she would find a sense of community with fellow OU students:
‘[The OU has] so many diverse students so I thought it's really going to appeal to me. I felt like it was the place I could really feel a sense of belonging to. They’re there to share the journey with you. Being able to communicate online with each other, that all really helps.
“The tutor I’ve currently got is really helpful too. I'm really grateful that I’ve got him as a tutor. He used to practise law. He's really open and honest with me and he stays in contact quite a lot.”
Clara is due to complete her OU Law degree in 2022 and already has her sights set on a career of supporting others:
“I am hoping that all my training from my degree and from the Citizens Advice will empower me so that I can help others. I believe we all deserve the chance to become educated and to know our legal rights.
“My aspirations are to become a lawyer and a teacher in the future. I will try and give young people mental and emotional support and help them as much as I can with their education. Regardless of any inequalities including age, race, gender or disability there is always a way to pursue your goals. I found that with The Open University.”
OU students aren’t just changing their futures – they’re helping to change the world. Clara is featured in a new ‘Ones to watch’ series with MTV Generation Change, which showcases the OU students who are using their qualifications to make a difference to people and the planet. Watch the latest episode now with presenter Munya Chawawa to meet Clara and hear her speak about her passion for supporting her community.