Fleetwood nurse whose husband was captured by Taliban hopes to inspire students

A Fleetwood nurse who gained a first class degree while her husband was a captive of the Taliban has been selected as part of a national campaign to inspire people to go to university.

Kelly Cornwell is a mental health nurse, registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and works at The Pavilion, a substance misuse detox facility in Lancaster.

Kelly graduated from the University of Cumbria last year with a degree in mental health nursing while her husband Kevin was detained in Afghanistan.

Family commitments over the years delayed Kelly’s dreams to train as a nurse but she finally went on to study mental health nursing at University of Cumbria, graduating with a first-class degree last year.

Her final year of study was significantly disrupted when her husband, a humanitarian aid worker, was detained by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Shortly after, Kelly herself had to undergo major surgery, which forced her to put on hold a professional placement that she had to complete to be eligible to complete her degree.

Following her own recovery and using the skills learned at university, Kelly successfully fought for her husband’s release.

He was freed just a few weeks before her graduation last November. She has now started her nursing career, helping those accessing support at a substance misuse detox facility in Lancaster.

Kelly said: “A mature first-generation student going to university can be a powerful catalyst for personal and societal transformation, unlocking new possibilities and setting the stage for a more enriched and impactful life.

‘’Everything you learn is universal - all the skills and knowledge you gain can be applied anywhere."

She added: "I'd been waiting for the moment for years and when the time was right, I wasn't going to let anything hold me back. University has given me the chance to acquire formal education and skills I may not have been able to get earlier due to family obligations.

‘’This empowerment has led to increased self-confidence and personal achievement.

“Being a first-generation student has helped me become a role model for our kids and grandchildren, showing them how important lifelong learning is. Hopefully, this will inspire our younger generations to pursue their education goals.”

When she’s not working, Kelly is also putting her expertise to good use as a volunteer serving as a Safeguarding Officer and Mental Health Advisor at her son’s Taekwondo club –leadership roles she would not have done previously.

University UK’s ‘100 Faces campaign’ aims to champion and celebrate the positive impact of ‘first-in-the-family’ (FitF) graduates on the UK – including England footballer Beth Mead, Lord David Blunkett, Nobel Prize winner Sir Chris Pissarides and actor Amit Shah - in order to highlight the need for access to support, and ensure the next generation can reach their graduate potential.

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