Lee Ryan’s first interaction with Newbattle Abbey College was as a participant on the Prescribe Nature Programme, funded by the Community Based Adult Learning fund and delivered by the College’s Forest College team.
As a 45-year-old single parent, Lee needed to find something to boost her wellbeing and self-esteem.
In Lee’s words, “I wasn’t able to get out of the front door other than to take my bairn to school. I’d come home and go straight back to bed. That’s all I could do. I just wasn't in a place where I could let the world in, I needed to shut it all out.”
The Prescribe Nature programme was aimed at utilising the power of person-centred forest delivery to support adults to enhance their well-being, improve their mental health, reduce social isolation and to enhance learning and employability.
As part of the course at the Midlothian based college, Lee had the opportunity to experience forest bathing, natural crafts and woodcraft, nature discovery and conservation. Using a Learning Journal to reflect on the experience, Lee was supported by the college team to gain an Adult Achievement Award at SCQF level 6, which gave a tangible outcome for the experience.
While undertaking Prescribe Nature, Lee’s self-confidence grew. “I realised I could actually manage a course. I didn’t think before that college was anything to do with me.”
Lee was encouraged to visit the Rural Skills unit and as a result, decided to enrol on the full-time NC course at SCQF level 4. She thrived within the full-time learning environment and quickly became involved in all aspects of college life. Having had a boost in confidence with her successful completion of the Adult Achievement Award, Lee successfully completed the Rural Skills course and has won the class prize for 2022-23.
As a parent herself, and a mature student, Lee is passionate about improving the lives of parents and boosting their confidence and self-esteem.
Together with two of her friends, she founded Improving Midlothian Parents And Caregivers Time (IMPACT). While studying on the Rural Skills course, Lee herself was running a course for Midlothian’s parents, aimed at empowering parents.
Originally funded by the Midlothian Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing fund, the group has steadily grown in strength and impact, garnering well-deserved recognition along the way. In 2023, their outstanding dedication and commitment to the community earned them the 'Outstanding New Volunteer' award at the Volunteer Midlothian awards, hosted by Newbattle Abbey College.
The commendable work of the IMPACT team has not only resonated within the local community but has also reached the national level, with an Early Day Motion supported by nine signatories in UK Parliament, applauding their transformative efforts in empowering and supporting parents across Midlothian. Their passion, resilience, and genuine care for the community have made IMPACT an invaluable force for positive change, enriching the lives of the parents and the families of the parents that they support.
Newbattle Abbey’s Forest College Co-ordinator said:
Lee has done so much to help others in their learning experiences such as helping to set up the IMPACT group and being a great mentor on the Prescribe Nature programme. She has been inspirational in her approach to learning and as a role model to others.
Earlier this year, the college co-authored a successful grant bid to work with IMPACT on the co-delivery of an employability programme for Midlothian’s Parents with the inclusion of the Adult Achievement Award, which will bring significant value by providing participants with a recognised SCQF credit rated award, boosting self-esteem, and enhancing employability prospects. This award not only acknowledges personal growth and development but also serves as a tangible testament to participants’ commitment and dedication to building a better future for themselves and their families.
By running IMPACT’s provision at the college, Lee has identified that attendance at the college will raise aspirations and help to increase familiarity with and confidence in the college environment. The programme will be offered from January 2024 to March 2024.
For Lee, her next steps involve remaining at Newbattle Abbey College to undertake the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP) in Social Science at SCQF level 6. She said:
Newbattle Abbey College is a place where not only do you gain qualifications but gain friendships, life skills, confidence, support, respect and responsibilities. It will be very sad when it's time for this part of my journey to come to an end, but I will do it being thankful for the college experience that Newbattle Abbey College has given me.
It’s clear that Lee has travelled a long way from her first encounter with Newbattle Abbey College, and the gentle introduction to learning through the Prescribe Nature programme, followed by a within-college progression, has ensured that she has received the support and consistent environment that has allowed her to thrive. The College is very proud of Lee and of her significant accomplishments.
For more information on Newbattle Abbey College, visit Newbattle Abbey College
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