Graduation day proved third time lucky for Stockton Riverside College’s Katie Allan.

The foundation skills youth worker twice had to previously step away from her studies after first losing her dad to cancer, and then supporting her mum through her battle with the disease.

“It has taken three attempts over several years to get this far,” said Katie, who finally got to pick up her Level 5 Certificate in Education.

With mum cheering her on, Katie said: “It feels good to finally be here.”  The fact that it coincided with recently turning 40, well, she said, that has just proven an extra incentive.

Supporting young people with additional needs is the day job for Katie.  Working at the college for seven years, she explained: “I wanted to back up what I am already doing with that extra layer of knowledge.”

She first signed up to the part-time course back in 2009, but tragedy struck shortly after when her dad, Ray, was diagnosed and later lost his battle with cancer.

“It was definitely the right thing to do as it gave me the time to spend with my dad,” she said.

Starting the course for the second time in 2011, Katie was almost a year in when mum, Wendy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Again, she stopped everything to support her through her fight.

“That time I had got so far as achieving my Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS), which is the first section of the course,” she said.

Katie admits it was with some trepidation that almost 10 years later she embarked on the course for the third time, but this proved to be her time.

With the big birthday coming up, she said: “That was another push, I wanted to do it before I turned 40 and I just managed it.”

Finally getting to wear her cap and gown, Katie joined fellow Stockton Riverside College higher education students as they paraded through Stockton town centre and graduated in a ceremony at Stockton Globe.

As part of the foundation skills team, Katie said: “The key for me was the support the whole team gave me along the way. I knew I could draw on their experience and knowledge.

“There were some rocky moments when I wondered if I could do this, but we got there.”

As for mum, she said: “She is doing really well, she kicked that cancer’s butt!”

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