Posted Thursday 20 December 2018
A social work student from Kingston University and St George's, University of London has won a national social mobility award for her voluntary and charity work at the inaugural UpReach Student Social Mobility Awards.
Rochelle Watson, a single mother to three-year-old son Allan Junior and the first in her family to go to university, picked up the Charity and Third Sector accolade at a ceremony at the House of Lords. The awards recognise the achievements of undergraduates from less advantaged backgrounds across the United Kingdom.
Rochelle is in the final year of her degree at the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, run jointly by Kingston and St George's. The 24-year-old carer from Merton, whose mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was 12, regularly volunteers at the Kingston Family Contact Centre supporting non-residential parents to see their children.
Reacting to her award, Rochelle said: "I'm still in shock. More than 200 students were originally nominated so to win the award is a massive thing. It's great to be recognised for my achievements and I'm proud to represent students who have gone through similar things. I want to be a positive role model."
Rochelle has played an active role in student life at Kingston University, inspiring and supporting others to overcome barriers to success. As well as being a member of the student council and a student ambassador, she has taken part in Kingston Hub's Transform Leadership Programme, which helps second year students plan for public sector graduate schemes. She has also worked as an Empower co-ordinator, helping mentors support disadvantaged young girls to achieve their potential.
Inspired by her mother's mental health issues, Rochelle has written a report about parental mental health and engagement with schoolchildren for the Reach Academy. The report explored the impact having a parent with mental health problems has on young people. She was also first person from her course to be a finalist in the University's Bright Ideas competition, where she created a personal development programme to support children affected by parental mental health and help them realise their full potential and develop skills they otherwise wouldn't have been able to.
The BA(Hons) Working with Children and Young People: Social Pedagogy student, who also took part in the University's SADRAS project to develop research into enriching students from underrepresented groups, credits the University for helping her develop as a person and igniting her self-belief.
"My experience at Kingston has transformed my life. I've been able to build my confidence during my studies and I'm so grateful to my lecturers and personal tutor for believing in me and encouraging me," she said. "When I started I wanted to develop my confidence and gain new skills but all of the extra-curricular activities Kingston offers have helped me develop belief in myself and have made me become more independent," she added.
Working with children and young people: social pedagogy course leader Yvalia Febrer, who is also Rochelle's personal tutor, said: "We are absolutely thrilled with Rochelle's success in the Social Mobility Awards, she is a model student and an inspiration to others not just on her course, but to everyone in the Department of Social Work and Social Care."
Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching at the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education Professor Jane Lindsay added: "We are all so proud of Rochelle. She has really taken on every initiative we have to offer at Kingston to develop herself and help others. She has overcome so many obstacles and is a shining example of what we want our students to be, she deserves every bit of success that comes her way."