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The homeless young mother who turned her life around

ROYAL APPROVAL: Claudette receiving an award from Prince William

A LONDON student, who was homeless when she fell pregnant, has told how she turned her life around after graduating from univer- sity and landing a top job.

Life is looking up Claudette Shay after a difficult few years. Now 26, she was forced to drop out of college at 18, having left home two years earlier. Soon afterwards she found herself homeless, but luckily she was given refuge by charity Centrepoint.

It provided her with specialist mother and baby accommodation before she gave birth to her son in 2010.

Through the charity, which specialises in helping young homeless people, Claudette gained work experience for 18 months as an accounting assistant and library technician at Bishopsgate law firm Latham and Watkins.

A real milestone for the mum-of-one came when she won a place on a human resource management degree course at GSM London, formerly Greenwich School of Management, in south-east London.

The offer came despite the fact that she didn’t finish her A-levels.

Although the move seemed daunting, she cites the support she received from family, friends and work colleagues at the college as key factors in helping to move forward and progress.

She said: “I did not think I would qualify for the degree. I am someone who prefers to gain hands-on, practical work experience. But it was my sister Valissa, who works at the college, a friend who had started there and a cousin that convinced me to apply.

“Initially, I was going to do the oil and gas management course, but it was not practical because it would have meant uprooting myself and I had a small child to consider. My mentor at the law firm worked in HR and had suggested doing the human resource and management course as an alternative.”

GSM London’s accelerated degrees, which allow students to study over a two-year pe- riod as well as the standard three-year periods, offered her a measure of flexibility as well as the opportunity to start earning after graduation more quickly than if she had done a traditional degree.

After graduating from GSM London with a 2:2, Claudette initially struggled to find a job.

However she found the skills she had acquired in her student days and doing work experience stood her in good stead.

And Claudette was recently head-hunted by the CEO of a recruitment firm who was touched by her story.

This led to her landing a job with a top property management company.

The new job offers a number of benefits including being closer to home, more pay and better career prospects.

Claudette also went on to be honoured at the Annual Centrepoint Awards, an event that celebrates the achievements of inspirational young people.

“I feel happier now I have more of a routine and things are falling into place,” Claudette said.

Speaking about people who were considering following in her footsteps and considering a return to higher education she said that a good network of support and the drive to succeed were crucial.

“I believe you have to be ready to do it. You have to have a good network of support. I feel like it is not for everyone but if you go for it give 110 per cent commitment.”

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