Joanne Matthews

Return to Learning Award | Sponsored by City Lit


Return to Learning Award

Joanne has faced a range of challenges in her life and yet, in some ways, she’s very typical of many of the people that come through the doors of adult education providers. After a poor experience of school and grappling with mental health issues, Joanne returned to learning at Hillingdon Adult Community Learning and has seen her confidence and future prospects skyrocket.

I wanted to return to learning because I wanted to improve my life chances and outcomes. I left school with no qualifications and definitely didn’t think education was for me. I think the biggest challenge I faced, returning to learning and building up my career, has been my mental health struggles. I also faced issues around my gender transition and my dyslexia, which can be quite debilitating.

Walking through the door of Hillingdon five years ago was one of the scariest things I have done, but my confidence has grown with all the courses I’m doing. I’ve learned about myself and I’ve learned about other people as well, from different parts of the world, and I think that’s important for my career, to go further.

Because of my own experiences with mental health struggles, I wanted to give something back to people that might be feeling the same way. I started to volunteer in that field, where I ended up doing more and more volunteering, more and more courses and now I am working there. The courses I’ve been doing are allowing me to work towards this as a full time career.

If you told me five years ago that I would attend adult education classes and get qualifications, and be able to travel across London to volunteer to support those struggling in life, I wouldn’t believe you. Returning to learning has been transformative, and I am looking forward to continuing to learn, pursue a job as a peer support worker and keep building my confidence.

Deborah Scarborough, Service Manager at Learn Hillingdon Adult Community Education said:

“Joanne’s had such an incredible learning journey.  When we saw the award, we felt that she really deserved it.  She has overcome all kinds of obstacles, from dyslexia to mental health crises and major surgery, but she has kept going and worked hard.  She has achieved so much and still has her sights set on getting more qualifications and building her career.”