Graduate Secures Masters Degree After Overcoming Adversity

Leeds Trinity student Paige Walshe graduated recently with a Masters in Applied Custodial Leadership after overcoming adversity during her time at University.

Originally from Croydon, 29-year-old Paige was amongst the first cohort of students on the Unlocked Graduates programme at Leeds Trinity University, a national leadership scheme that involves a combination of classroom-based learning, as well as practical frontline work on the landings as Prison Officers.

Since joining Leeds Trinity in 2020, Paige has faced and overcome significant personal challenges, especially over the last year when she lost her dad in January, just three-and-a-half years after her mum passed away.

Paige had to juggle working full-time, commuting long distances, completing a Masters and arranging her dad’s funeral, which almost led to her leaving the programme completely.

She was supported throughout her time at Leeds Trinity University by Professor Danielle McDermott, Head of Prisons and Custody, Associate Professor Claire Vilarrubi, and Jacky Taylor, Administrator in Assessments and Ceremonies, who she credits with encouraging her to carry on.

Paige graduated with a Distinction and full-time employment in the Programme Interventions department at a Category C prison, working to reduce re-offending.

Paige said: “I owe so much to Danielle, Claire and Jacky, they have helped change my life. I now have a Masters degree and no one can take that away from me. They were kind all the way through and never lost faith in me and would always reply, sometimes late at night! I don’t have a bad word to say about Leeds Trinity University. I really felt they cared and because of them, I wanted to finish.”

“I never intended to work in prisons, but this programme has opened so many doors. I am working in a department that works to reduce re-offending and feels really meaningful. I have proven to myself that I have the intelligence and determination to succeed and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.”

“Getting a Masters has increased my confidence so much, especially achieving a Distinction despite everything that happened. I really can’t believe I did it. I think it will act as a reminder for my future self that I am strong enough, which will help to stop any feelings of self-doubt.”

Associate Professor Claire Vilarrubi, Senior Lecturer in the School of Criminology, Investigation and Policing at Leeds Trinity University, said: “It’s been an absolute honour to support Paige for the past two years. Undertaking post-graduate studies whilst working full-time can be exceptionally demanding and challenging at the best of times, but alongside this Paige has been faced with personal loss and grief.”

“Despite this, Paige has approached her studies with an appetite for learning, tenacity and commitment. She is passionate and reflective, determined to lead innovation and change within the Criminal Justice System. She fully deserves her success and I’m excited to see what the future holds for her.”

Professor Danielle McDermott, Head of Prisons and Custody at Leeds Trinity University, said: “I am so proud of Paige’s journey since starting Leeds Trinity University, and to be graduating with a Distinction despite struggling with her own personal challenges is a testament to the type of person she is.”

“She has been a delight to teach and has been eager to learn and grow as a person throughout her time at Leeds Trinity. I am looking forward to seeing her career flourish, and she deserves all the success that will be coming her way in the future.”

Unlocked has worked in partnership with Leeds Trinity since 2020. Since the Unlocked programme was launched, over 10,000 applications have been submitted with over 600 participants placed in prisons across the UK in the last five years.

The principle at the heart of the Unlocked programme is a belief that the way to change prisons and break cycles of reoffending is through developing exceptional prison officers. The prison officer is the only professional who can build a relationship with every single prisoner – including the most vulnerable and challenging. They set the culture on the landings and have the power to create a safe and secure environment focused on rehabilitation.

Find out more about Unlocked here