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Graduation joy for amazing student who went to 11 schools

University of Bristol graduate Chloe Fussell on the day of her graduation

Chloe Fussell pictured with her mother when Chloe was young

Chloe graduated with a degree in Criminology

Press release issued: 2 August 2023

A student who was a young carer and went to 11 schools has graduated from the University of Bristol.

From the age of five Chloe Fussell helped care for her disabled siblings and terminally ill mother.

Now 24, she is working as a supply teacher before doing a teacher training course, so she can help pupils “by being the person I needed when I was younger”.

She received her Criminology degree in the University’s Wills Memorial Building with her proud family watching on.

“Dad was more excited for graduation than I was,” Chloe said. “I’m the first person in my family to go to University and he just thinks it’s amazing.”

Growing up in Radstock, near Bath, Chloe did not realise her life was different to other children’s.

She had already been helping with a sibling’s epilepsy when her mother went in for a routine operation and was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

“Looking back it was a lot, but I didn’t know any different,” Chloe said. “I didn’t know other kids were out playing on their bikes. I now know it wasn’t a normal way to grow up but I’ve made my peace with it.”

The family made several moves across the country to access healthcare and get closer to friends and family.

Tragically, Chloe’s mother passed away two years after her diagnosis, aged 38. Chloe was just nine.

For her incredible work as a young carer she won a Pride Of Somerset Youth Award. She was nominated by her father, who lives with a disability.

Chloe’s turbulent early life meant she went to six primary schools and five secondary schools – and had all but ruled out going to university.

But, having spent time at a University of Bristol summer school, she later chanced upon its Foundation in Arts and Social Sciences course.

“It was a wonderful course,” Chloe recalled. “It was a small cohort and some were 18, some were 75. It was so wholesome, I really found my feet again.”

Chloe went on to study Criminology at the University – including an exchange year in Michigan, USA.

Chloe said: “I was walking to campus one day and I had to stop and think ‘I’m living on a different continent, 3,500 miles away from the family I’ve been looking after.

“It was mind-blowing, the best of experience of my life. It made me realise there are opportunities beyond being at home.”

Chloe has spent the past nine months as a supply teacher at a Bristol school and will now study for a PGCE at the University of Bristol to be a secondary maths teacher.

She said: “It’s going to be really hard to say goodbye to the kids!

“I’m really pleased I ended up where I am. I kept stumbling until I landed. It’s been the most ridiculous, crazy journey. Eight years ago I genuinely didn’t think I’d end up anywhere, for so long it felt like the system was against me.

“I’m behind where people my age are but I feel privileged to be in the position I’m in.”

Dr Gernot Klantschnig, Associate Professor in International Criminology, and Chloe’s supervisor, said: “Chloe has shown unbelievable determination, maturity and dedication to her studies since the start, and she managed this all despite the difficulties she has faced.”

Dr Natasha Mulvihill, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Bristol, said that Chloe was an “articulate, critically engaged student” who has “an insight and maturity beyond her years”.

She added: “There are some staff and students at Bristol for whom being here is more than a job or a degree: they are here in spite of past challenges, and because they understand - through their experience - the transformative potential of education.”

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