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High fliers of the future visit University of Cumbria

The University of Cumbria recently welcomed two aspiring young students to their Fusehill Street campus. The girls, Leah Kennerley, 9, and Laila Ridyard, 10, had written to members of staff asking for the opportunity to gain an insight into their chosen careers.

Kate Mclaughlin-Flynn (left) with Leah
Kate Mclaughlin-Flynn (left) with Leah

Leah from Newlaithes Junior School, had written to Kate Mclaughlin-Flynn, the university’s director of finance and resources. Leah had been inspired by International Women’s Day on 8 March this year and had decided that she wanted to be a successful business woman when she was older, so chose Kate’s job as an example of the type of role she could work in.

Leah interviewed Kate to discover the detail of her job day-to-day, the challenges, the highs and lows.  When asked why she wanted the job, Kate replied that “It helps young people to get degrees that lead them to become police officers, nurses and teachers, for example. It is therefore vitally important to have a university close by. It is important for the city.”

To Leah’s question about how hard her job was, Kate replied that the job was quite hard, but that she worked with a great team of people, which made it easier to achieve her goals. She also said that as well as being inspired by her parents and grandparents, she had worked for some great bosses during her career.

While at the university, Leah also spent time learning how nurses and teachers are trained, and toured the new state-of-the-art laboratories, which were the main focus of Laila Ridyard’s visit.

Nigel explains a process to Laila
Nigel explains a process to Laila

Laila, from St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School wants to be a professor of science when she grows up and had approached lecturer Stephen Walker, to ask if he could help her to find out more.

Stephen invited Laila to Fusehill Street where, as well as enjoying a tour of the laboratories with school and college liaison officer Laura Kirk, she met senior lecturer Nigel Smith. Nigel demonstrated to Laila how to operate a flame photometer to determine the sodium and potassium ion concentrations in blood serum and Laila was thrilled to discover the sort of activity she could undertake in years to come, as a professor.

L-R: Stephen Walker, Laila and Laura Kirk
L-R: Stephen Walker, Laila and Laura Kirk

Stephen explains: “Laila wrote a beautiful letter, asking me if I could help her fulfil her dream of visiting the university to meet lecturers and professors, and said she would be “the happiest person in the universe” if I said yes.

“In such circumstance, what else could I say!”

Raising aspirations and encouraging educational achievement are central to the work of the university’s widening participation (WP) team. in 2015/16, The University of Cumbria devoted nearly £4m to funding activities designed to encourage and improve access to higher education.

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