Having grown up in care, Ashley Cameron was used to being told that she would never make it because "kids like me don't go to university".
While working for the children's charity Who Cares? Scotland, which speaks out on behalf of children and young people with experience of being in care, she met some representatives from the National Union of Students for Scotland who encouraged her to apply for a University access course.
“I was a bit anxious at first but looking back I’m so glad I went through with it,” she said. “I had a lot of lived experience and special knowledge of the care sector, but didn't have any qualifications to match that experience.
“I chose Stirling because it’s my home town and I grew up around the campus, regularly attending events at the Macrobert, and ultimately because it offered progression onto a degree course of my choosing.”
Ashley was awarded a Student of the Year award by the University for her work championing the rights of care-experienced young people in Scotland.
As well as getting to grips with university study, Ashley threw herself into a variety of other activities, acting as a NUS Delegate representing Stirling students at national conferences and events, standing for the position of Vice President of Education in the Student Union elections, and playing an active part in the Stirling University Labour Society and Stirling University Rock Society.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Ashley who admits struggling from mental health issues. However, she was allocated a Mental Health Mentor who helped get her through third year and resigned from her job with the children’s charity, so that she could focus on her studies.
Overall, she is positive about her University experience.
“I think the teaching at Stirling is really varied which for the most part was really refreshing,” she said. “I really valued all those different approaches to enhancing our learning.
“Most of all I valued the support from my tutors. I lost a few friends and family members during my time at university and don't feel I would have stuck with it without the support my tutors offered me.”
Ashley, who has been working part-time as a Researcher for Kezia Dugdale, has been offered a permanent full-time role with the Labour MSP after graduation.