Disabled student receives life-changers award
Published: May 24, 2007 | 6245th good news item since 2003
A DISABLED student who went from rags to riches in seven years has been honoured with a “life-changers” award.
She was the first person in her family to stay in school past the age of 15, and was forced to leave home at the age of 14.
But despite the odds, Cheryl Alexander went on to turn her life around by gaining two masters degrees from the University of York.
The born fighter has also been wheelchair-bound since the age of 18 – when a virus attacked her nervous system and left her barely able to walk.
Now aged 29, the trainee teacher has been recognised for her achievements at a national awards ceremony – where she was named as a runner-up in the University And College Union’s “life-changers award”.
Cheryl, who lives in Heslington, York, with her husband, Andy, said: “I come from a very disadvantaged background. There was no money for anything when I was a kid and we weren’t a very happy family.
“We didn’t have any books in our house and I wasn’t encouraged to go to school. I realised that education was my only way out – my teachers told me I was clever and that I could go to university and so this is what I aimed for.
“By the time I was 14 my mum had had enough and I moved in with the family of a friend, and then when I was 16, I won a scholarship to go to a private school.
“During the school holidays I had to stay with my teachers because I had nowhere else to go.
“University has changed my life. For starters I have money. It’s nice to be able to buy things I want and my husband and I have just bought our first home. I have no regrets about my life. All the things that have happened to me have made me who I am.”
Cheryl now has two masters degrees in chemistry and is just completing a PGCE to become a science teacher.
She said: “I love teaching. If I could save just one kid’s life in the way my teachers saved mine then that would be amazing – it would all be worthwhile.”
Cheryl travelled to London for the presentation ceremony with her wonder-dog Orca. Orca shot to fame in 2003 after saving Cheryl’s life when her wheelchair plummeted down a 20ft water-filled ditch.