WHEN 57-year-old Chris Graham-Scott from Whitley Bay left school over 40 years ago, she had no qualifications, and no idea that her real learning journey was about to begin.
As testament to how far she has come, Chris was crowned the CoLaS Awards 2009 Lifetime Achiever of the Year, sponsored by Bishop Auckland College, Derwentside College, East Durham College and New College Durham.
Throughout her teens, 20s and early 30s, Chris gained experience in a wide range of jobs. A lifelong learner in the truest sense of the word, she always took up training opportunities – starting with night classes while she was working aged just 15.
In 1998, Chris accepted two youth trainees into her workplace. The support systems she developed saw her invited to become a training instructor for young people, even though she had no formal teacher training. She was soon promoted to centre manager, helping her to realise that she wanted to pass on her experience to support others.
Chris has continued to change lives through learning.
As well as helping young people on training programmes and in schools, she has supported young offenders leaving prison, adults with mental health and learning disabilities, mature learners and the unemployed in getting into work.
Always happy to go the extra mile, Chris has even been known to go to North Shields fish quay in the early morning to support a young man in his first days of a job filleting fish. Such is her devotion to her vocation, people often say she has totally transformed their lives.
Chris’s latest role is now at Tyne and Wear Care Alliance, where she works with a network of employers who care for people with learning disabilities. On top of this, she is happy to practice what she preaches and continually develops her own skills. Among her accolades are a degree in education, which she achieved at 50, and an NVQ Level 4 in Advice and Guidance.
"I believe that everyone has the right to learn. It is case of helping people to recognise their own potential and supporting them to see what they can do," said Chris.