A woman who moved to the UK to seek urgent treatment for her son has been recognised for transforming her life through learning with Adult Education Wolverhampton.

Karen Hanley-Brooks was a finalist at this year’s Festival of Learning, the biggest celebration of lifelong learning in England.

She grew up on the Caribbean island of St Kitts but dropped out of school early because she wanted to work. She said: “Little did I know that education was the foundation I needed to build on.

“In 2016 my children and I had to move to the UK because my son needed urgent medical support for his autism.

“Being a single mother of 2 without any family living here was very challenging, and I saw that going back to learning was the only way to better myself and to have a brighter future.”

Karen’s learning journey began with an Entry Level 3 Functional Skills English course with Adult Education Wolverhampton. Through her hard work and dedication, she quickly progressed to a GCSE course and volunteered with the Talk English programme to help others improve their English language skills. 

She said: “Learning has given me hope and confidence and built my self esteem. Both my experience of dealing with my non verbal son and the English language skills I have gained at Adult Education Wolverhampton have allowed me to help other people whose first language is not English. 

“My greatest motivators are my children, especially my son who never allows his disabilities to discourage him from being the best he can be. Through learning, I have not only developed knowledge and skills for myself but am able to use these to help my children develop their own lives in a positive way.”

Tutor Craig Watkiss said: “Karen’s dedication to her children shines through when she talks about her improvements in class and she is rightly proud that her skills enable her to better support them. Her hard work and dedication to improving her skills has also resulted in her achieving a Grade 5 qualification in GCSE English Language, including a distinction for her spoken assessment, which is yet another terrific achievement. She is a credit to herself, her children and to Adult Education Wolverhampton.”

Also nominated for this year’s Festival of Learning were BSL (British Sign Language) student Jay Portman, who said: “With the skills acquired with Adult Education Wolverhampton, I plan to progress to a level 5 counselling diploma and continue my journey improving peoples’ wellbeing. This course has really helped me to focus and forge a career pathway as a counsellor, which fits perfectly with my life goal of assisting others.”

There were also nominations for the Life Skills Tale of 2 Cities project, which widened the horizons of 10 Wolverhampton students with learning disabilities by joining them with students attending classes at 2 arts organisations in Gloucester, and the All4Art art cooperative, providing students with opportunities for further learning, development of skills and support with their mental health and wellbeing. 

Councillor Dr Mike Hardacre, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “Each year we are proud to be part of the Festival of Learning to highlight the benefits of learning, celebrate the achievements of adults in Wolverhampton who have used education to transform their lives, and to encourage everyone to embrace lifelong learning. 

“This year we submitted 4 nominations to the awards, 2 individual learners and 2 groups, all truly inspiring, each highlighting the benefits of learning and the inspiring confidence that this brings. I would like to congratulate them, and in particular Karen on her outstanding achievement.”

For more details about courses offered by Adult Education Wolverhampton, please visit Adult Education Wolverhampton or call 01902 558180.

For more information please visit Festival of Learning.