Stuart Patterson
Humanities 2017-18 at GKC
Strathclyde - Social Policy, Education and Journalism & Creative Writing
My name is Stuart. I’m 48 years old and I’m from Easterhouse. 

That last fact is one that has long influenced the direction of my life. I remember being told, when going for a job interview: “Don’t say you’re from Easterhouse or you won’t get the job”. Such was the reputation of the place at the time. I think things like that teach you to be ashamed of where you’re from, and I think a lot of people are affected by that still. 

Growing up, I was deemed “intelligent, but not academic”; nevertheless, I performed very well at school and, when it came time to progress to secondary school, I won a scholarship to attend an independent institution outside of my neighbourhood. I took up that opportunity with enthusiasm and attended Hutchesons’ Grammar in Glasgow’s South Side for a while, determined to study hard and someday become a lawyer. 

But that aspiration went right out the window due to my involvement with gang activities. Glasgow gangs were extremely territorial back then and it just wasn’t very smart to go outside your patch, so I left Hutchie and started attending Westwood Secondary in Easterhouse instead. It was there that I made the decision to terminate my academic career completely.  

I remember the moment clearly -- December 1985 during geography class -- when it dawned on me that I would soon be turning 16 and could therefore leave at Christmas. And that’s exactly what I did. I was a stubborn little git and insecure, and the stuff I was getting into at the time didn’t really mesh too well with academia.

I went on to do a YTS scheme and completed my training to become a butcher, but I had other uses for knives, and my continued involvement with gang activities between the ages of 14-18 led to me being convicted for carrying a weapon. I later became an addict and did prison time for drugs offenses. For seven years after leaving prison, I continued down that path, using drugs and living the day-to-day life of an addict, just looking for my next fix. 

In my late 20s I got involved with a different kind of group called Teen Challenge, which is a Christian organisation that helps people overcome addictions and destructive behaviour, and I finally got off the drugs. Not only that, but I discovered a whole new sense of self, one that wasn’t bound up in my problems, but focused more on solutions. One of the most profound things that happened to me as a consequence of my involvement in that organisation was a complete change in my identity. I stopped thinking of myself as an “addict” or even a “recovering addict” and started thinking of myself as a “student”, which is what the folks at Teen Challenge emphasised to me. The student identity stripped away the excuse of addiction, and let me begin to move on, but it was and is as a Christian that I have hope, faith and strength for the future. 

My criminal past is not my whole identity, and I’m now far more interested in developing the skills I learned along the way. I’m an intelligent and resourceful person, and there’s far more to me than my past behaviours. I grabbed onto that opportunity for development with both hands and it changed my life. 

 <stuart_and_tracy_patterson.jpg> I got married in 2001, and my wife and I now have three daughters. At the age of thirty-seven, my wife decided to return to education to become a nurse, and she encouraged me to consider returning to education myself.

I had thought about doing it for a long time, but after 32 years away, the prospect was daunting. I guess it was fear of failure. I had a thirst for knowledge and I was keen to learn, but I just wasn’t sure about undertaking a formal education qualification.

Eventually, feeling compelled to at least try, I put in an application for the Access to Humanities at Glasgow Kelvin College in Easterhouse. I told the bare truth in my application, no holds barred, kind of hoping that it would rule me out and I would be rejected. That way I would be off the hook! I could say “I tried” and then I could put it out of my mind. But they didn’t reject me. They invited me for interview.

Again, I was daunted, but I gathered my courage and my faith and I went for it anyway, and in the end it was perfectly fine. Relaxed. And I got an offer of a place.
 Even after that, though, I spent the intervening time between the interview and starting college thinking (hoping) that something would happen so that I would end up not going. All those old insecurities cropping up, I suppose. But nothing happened, and the day came when I had to report to a classroom. 

I remember that first day very clearly, because I am sitting there looking out the window and I’ve got a clear view across the way to my old high school. I was looking straight at the windows of the classroom where, 32 years before, I had made the decision to leave school and set myself on the meandering path that had led me to this point. It was a little surreal, but quite sweet, as well. 

In the end, I did very well on the SWAP programme, finishing with AAA on my profile and progressing to my first choice of university. I’ve just embarked upon a degree at the University of Strathclyde, studying Social Policy, Journalism and Creative Writing, and Education. 

The very first day at university, I was standing out in the corridor outside the lecture theatre looking in at all the much younger people who were in my class, and starting to think that I’d made a terrible mistake. As I walked in to find a seat, I prayed for a sign that I hadn’t gotten it all horribly wrong. Much to my surprise, I then saw that the lecturer for that class, Amanda Corrigan, was someone I already knew from her previous involvement in a community outreach programme. Seeing that familiar face seemed like the sign I was looking for and it put me at ease. 

I’ve started now to make friends on the course, meeting other mature students, some of them from other SWAP programmes, and settling in. I look forward to the next challenge, whatever it may be. 

If you want to get in touch with me, you can find me on my blog:
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