A STUDENT at Coleg Gwent who thought further education was out of reach for her, has been awarded for her outstanding commitment to learning while also caring for her mother.

Emily Jones, who is studying a foundation degree in community health and well being, was named Coleg Gwent Learner of the Year at the annual UHOVI (Universities Heads of the Valleys Institute) Learner of the Year awards.

The 24-year-old was nominated by her course leader Helen Griffiths, who said she had coped magnificently during difficult circumstances, to overcome challenges.

Miss Jones, of Earl Street, Tredegar, achieved high grades during her first year of study, while also caring for her mother, Linda Jones, who at 61 suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Miss Jones started caring for her mother full time after she left school back in 2007.

She said: “I thought I’d never be able to go and get a qualification and would just have to get a job for the sake of it.”

But after spotting an advert, she went to see what courses were on offer from Coleg Gwent.

The structure of the course, combining home study, with college hours and placement, enabled Miss Jones to work around her commitments to her mother.

She said: “It was nice to go into college. To have a day away from a lot of responsibilities was good.”

Miss Jones said her classmates and tutors have been very supportive. Around Christmas time, her mother’s condition deteriorated and she was moved to a home.

Her mother used to be an occupational health therapist and actually worked in a hospital for dementia. Now Miss Jones also wants to go into occupational therapy or social work.

“She’s given me a good understanding of the disease, not knowing what was going to happen to her. It’s quite ironic really,” she said.

Miss Jones added that she was “surprised” to have been given the award. She said: “It means a lot because when you’re in the middle of something you get lost in the day-to-day and don’t look back and realise how well you’ve done.”

Her advice to other young carers was to seek support. She said: “I think the best thing you can do is to find out what support and help you are entitled to. A lot of the time it’s easier to bury your head in the sand and try and cope with it on your own – that’s what I did.

“Finding out about services made me think maybe I can do something and work around this. Everybody deserves to do what they want and have a fair shot at it.”