BILLIE-Jo McDowell grew up in the care system.
She struggled with homelessness, financial issues and even faced the prospect of having to drop out.
Now she has turned her life around and today she graduated from Queen’s University Belfast.
Here’s her powerful story to inspire others:
“At the start of second year, I was living in a homeless shelter, and Deirdre Lynskey was installed as the Care Leaver contact in Queen’s Widening Participation Unit.
“She helped me get into Queen’s Accommodation and, in fact, she has helped me through a lot.
“She gave me a lot of opportunities which have helped me decide on my future career as a social worker.
“During my second year, I was involved in setting up Get a C.L.U.E. (Care Leavers University Experience), a project to get care leavers at Queen’s more involved and give them opportunities to enhance their skills and give them a place to meet and get support with people from similar backgrounds.
“The ultimate aim for me is that young people who have been through similar situations to myself can see that our backgrounds don’t define us and that we can reach our goals.
“My goal was to graduate from university and I’ve done that.” Billie-Jo McDowell
Billie-Jo will graduate today with a Bsc (Hons) Geography.