A university student has praised the support she has been given to allow her to pursue her dream of getting a degree.
Carly Green, of Bishopsteignton, South Devon, secured a place at university to embark on a law degree in September 2018.
Her family were not in a position to help her financially and she faced some challenges over how she was going to be able to fund her studies.
As well as being thrown into a world of rent, bill and groceries, Carly needed to find vast amounts of money for textbooks and equipment to support her learning.
The mounting pressure meant Carly almost quit university in her first year as she found it increasingly difficult to keep pace with the financial demands.
That was until housing association, LiveWest, stepped in with some support which helped to get her back on track.
LiveWest first offer of support saw some funding to allow Carly to purchase a new laptop which she described as a ‘lifeline’.
Carly, 20, said: “In the first year, after a very rocky start where I almost gave up, I managed to find my feet and finished the year with some positive results.
“I can honestly say that without LiveWest’s assistance in buying a personal laptop, I would not have achieved these marks.
“I was able to study from my halls of residence thanks to the laptop, and even when I missed lectures due to illness, I could keep on top of my work and catch up.
“That funding was an absolute lifeline for me.”
Carly has fond experiences of LiveWest as the organisation, which owns more than 38,000 homes across the South West, gave her some work experience at the age of 15. Her family live in a LiveWest home.
Carly was also supported in her second year of her studies as LiveWest gave her a crisis and hardship grant to help her buy essential textbooks and has more recently supplied some book vouchers to help her complete her studies.
Carly, who works at Morrisons during university breaks, added: “The legal textbooks we have to acquire are very expensive.
“I feel so lucky to have been able to afford the books thanks to LiveWest and I used them thoroughly.
“They travelled with me throughout lockdown and they were vital when I was doing my online exams.
“Due to these textbooks I managed, to my surprise, to gain an average mark of a First, despite the unprecedented circumstance and the difficulties I personally faced.
“I attribute this largely to the support from LiveWest as without these materials I would have struggled to have learned a large amount of the course.
“Nobody really warns you about some of the hidden costs of going to university. As much as I love my parents, they haven’t been in a position to be able to help me with these costs.
“It is hard when you are living with people who are sent food money every week and I am having to survive on the grants we are given and the money I earn from Morrisons out of term time.”
Carly’s personal challenges saw a treasured family member pass away before one of her closest friends at university lost their battle with mental health earlier this year.
But Carly has pulled on her powers of resilience to thrive in the face of adversity.
Carly said: “Although these events were truly devastating, I learned a considerable amount from them.
“I learned that it is okay to ask for help when you are struggling, and I learned to always reach out to friends and offer them support.
“I learned that I don’t need to always be independent just because I am an ‘adult’ now, and it is not a sign of weakness to lean on those around you or to make new connections to take your mind off things.
“Often when bad things happen, they happen all at once. Soon after these tragic events occurred and the panic of COVID-19 began, both my phone and my laptop decided to breakdown.
“This was so painfully stressful especially as it fell at the worst time it possibly could have.
"If it wasn’t for the immense support of my friends, family, faculty, and the financial support of LiveWest, I would have truly struggled to make it through my second year at university.”
As for the future, Carly added: “I am not sure yet. I am going to start applying for jobs as soon as I finish my studies and see where it takes me.”
Since the end of March, LiveWest has issued 1,000 crisis and hardship grants its customers, totalling more than £200,000.
And they are is forecasting another £200,000 will be given out by the end of March 2021.
Tim Wotton, Grants Manager for LiveWest, said: “Carly is a real inspiration and great example of how our grants can give a little bit of help during this difficult time.
“We’re so happy to be able to help Carly and hundreds of other families through our crisis and hardship grants.
“We know students have been particularly affected so are offering LiveWest customers who are students book vouchers, helping families get on line or helping towards the cost of food, so that people can still live as normal a life as possible and carrying on working towards their dreams and ambitions.”