Paula Smith and daughter Kimoni Bell graduated together at the 2019 UCEN Manchester and Total People Graduation.
UCEN Manchester alumni Kimoni Bell and her mum Paula Smith both received their honours on Tuesday 29 October at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester City Centre.
Not only did Kimoni collect her own qualification on the day but she also attended her mother’s ceremony in an official capacity, as cooptee member of the UCEN Manchester board.
Kimoni said: “I’m bursting with pride. I’ll actually be on stage as part of the academic graduation party when my mum collects her foundation degree during the morning ceremony.
I know I’ll be overwhelmed when it’s my turn to collect my degree in the afternoon. All the hard work will have been worth it.
Mum-of-seven Paula said: “I’m really looking forward to it although I’m nervous as well. I’m so happy that I made it to this day; getting to graduate with my daughter is just amazing.”
Kimoni learned about UCEN Manchester’s wide range of courses while she was on maternity leave with her daughter Princess-Amour Kyezu, who is now four.
Kimoni, a Graduate Adviser for the collaborative network Greater Manchester Higher, said: “I’d set up my own business while on maternity leave but once I’d read about what UCEN Manchester had to offer, and about the Business and Management foundation degree, I signed up straight away.
“I’ve had so many opportunities here, such as being Student Governor for two years and now cooptee board member. And with small class sizes and more individualised learning, I’ve been able to reach my full potential.”
Paula, who left school with no qualifications and became a teaching assistant at a local primary school, was inspired to join UCEN Manchester when she was a guest at a graduation ceremony in the Bridgewater Hall.
She said: “I suddenly thought ‘I want to do that’.
“I was so determined to get my higher education qualification that I asked Kimoni what steps I had to take to achieve my dream.”
Paula said: “I fell in love with education again.
“I never saw myself graduating, never thought I was good enough so I couldn’t have ever imagined a day like today.
“At 49, I didn’t think I could cope with the study or dedicate my time to it, but I saw Kimoni do it and thought I’m going to give it a try.”
Paula’s ultimate career aim is to work with children with learning difficulties.
She said: “I really persevered with my studies and was determined to achieve this no matter what.
My message to anyone thinking about heading back to education is don’t let your fears hold you back, burst through them. Believe in yourself and know that you can do this!
Pictured are Paula Smith (left) and Kimoni Bell (right) with Kimoni's daughter Princess-Amour Kyezu.