A LIFE-CHANGING decision to enrol at Middlesbrough College has helped one woman get her life back on track after years of suffering with PTSD and finding herself homeless.
And now, 25-year-old Kira Coleman is speaking out about her journey from shelter to success in a bid to inspire others in similar positions.
Originally from Newcastle, Kira left home at 16 after a tumultuous childhood. At aged 18, a traumatic experience left her with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and she eventually found herself homeless and jobless on Teesside.
She explained: “After leaving home, I moved around the North East a lot and fell in with the wrong crowds. I then went through an incredibly difficult experience which left me feeling like life wouldn’t get any better. I’d lost all hope.
“I struggled for years until it got to a point where I knew I had to make a change. Since coming to College, things have really turned around – suddenly I had structure in my life again and a reason to get through each day.”
With few qualifications, Kira enrolled on a one-year Access to Higher Education Diploma in Music course at Middlesbrough College before progressing onto the Bachelor of Science Degree in Sound and Music Technology, accredited by the Open University. She is now in her final year.
Since studying at the College, Kira has praised her tutors and peers for their constant support and belief that has “changed her life” and is encouraging other people not to give up hope.
Kira said: “When people think of PTSD, they typically think of men who’ve perhaps served in the military, and I don’t think it’s as commonly recognised that many people who’ve gone through a traumatic experience can suffer too.
“Where I didn’t have the support that most people do from their family, my tutors at College have been the most consistent people in my life. They’ve not only helped me professionally, in giving me the skills I need to do something I love career wise, but they’ve really helped me turn my life around.
“They were aware of my past and have been incredibly supportive, patient and have shown a genuine passion in my progression.
“Studying at the College’s University Centre has also massively helped me bond with other people, open up more and trust people again.
Alongside her studies, Kira secured a number of part time jobs in the industry, including at the Globe Theatre in Stockton where she currently works as a casual technician. Her role has seen her work on a number of high-profile productions including Bat Out of Hell and Professor Brian Cox: Horizons with Robin Ince, as well as on tour gigs for the likes of James Arthur.
She also worked part time as a carer for years, including throughout the pandemic, and hopes to combine her love of helping people with the new skills she’s picked up at the College to study for a Masters in music therapy.
She added: “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m more mature, more confident and my mind is a lot more stable.
“And Middlesbrough College has been a massive part of getting my life back on track – I’m so thankful for my tutors because I wouldn’t be where I am now without them.”
Kira’s tutor, Jamie Donnelly said: “We’re all so proud of how far Kira has come – and I’ve personally seen a profound change in her since she first came to us at the College.
“She’s a shining example of someone who’s turned their life around by investing in their future, and I can’t wait to watch her progress in her career.
“Middlesbrough College is here to support all learners, including adults in our community who may find themselves in difficult circumstances. Whether they’re looking for a job, to retrain for a new career, progress at work or want to learn a new skill, we’re here to help.”
Now, Kira’s keen to help others get back into education or employment.
She said: “PTSD will always be part of me, but I’ve taken back control of my life.
“The College helped changed my attitude from I can’t, to I can. And when you start telling yourself that, you realise you’re more capable than you think.
“We all go through phases in life where we feel broken but that doesn’t mean you can’t put yourself back together, and there’s people out there who can help.
“For anyone really struggling, I want them to know this: there’s always hope, don’t give up.”
Middlesbrough College’s Access to HE diplomas offer an alternative route for people who want to go on to university but don’t have traditional qualifications. The year-long courses equip students with the skills and know-how required for further study.
As the largest provider in the North East, the College offers 14 diplomas across a range of subjects, including business, health care and computing.
After completing an Access course, students can progress to further study at degree level.