A mental breakdown, years of depression and self-harming, and a seriously sick husband were just some of the obstacles put in the way of Mansfield Woodhouse mum Lisa Woodward.
And when she and her three children lost their family home because of money problems, she freely admits she hit “rock bottom”.
But now, the 36-year-old has not only turned her life around. She has also scooped a national award and has been lauded as “truly inspirational”.
The transformation was triggered by Lisa’s brave decision to throw herself into adult-education studies at West Nottinghamshire College at Mansfield. Determined to make the most of what she saw as her “second chance”, she turned into a model student.
Lisa says: “Two years ago, I had no home, a husband repeatedly in and out of hospital, and I was a mental-health outpatient almost every day because of my self-harming.
“It felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, and I had no idea how things would ever get better.
“I’m so pleased that I decided to apply to college. It was different settling in at first, but things became easier once I accessed the support of tutors and slowly gained in confidence.”
Such was Lisa’s progress that one of those tutors, learner development coach Jason Hanson, nominated her for an award after she excelled on a humanities and social sciences course, which she passed with almost-perfect marks, ten distinctions and two merits.
She duly received the runner-up prize in the prestigious Keith Fletcher Award for “outstanding academic achievement”, given out by a national body that oversees higher education diplomas.
What’s more, Lisa and her children, LucyAnn, 15, Alice, ten, and eight-year-old Oliver, have been re-homed with the help of the housing charity, Framework.
“Managing my home life with my full-time studies has been a challenge,” she says. “But the new and exciting opportunites that have come my way have given my life purpose again.”
BORN-again mum Lisa Woodward feels her time at college has not just been about academic success. “It has changed me as a person and made me want to achieve even more,” she says.
“My tutor, Jason Hanson, was fantastic and extremely supportive whenever I had a panic attack in class, which happened a lot. I’m so proud of my exam results. I had to put everything into them, but my hard work and commitment paid off.”
Lisa is now studying for a foundation degree in criminal justice (human rights), with ambitions of forging a career as a probation officer. She also does voluntary work, helping the homeless and ex-offenders facing social exclusion.
“College has given me a new lease of life,” she says. “I know how it feels to hit rock bottom, but now it’s great to know I have an exciting future ahead of me.”