Friday February 17 is Care Day
The care home staff who transformed Florence Clarke’s life travelled to the Usher Hall to watch her graduate from Edinburgh Napier.
Florence went into care as a teenager and also had a spell in a secure unit after struggling to cope when her mother died from breast cancer aged just 43.
However, caring workers helped arrange for her to stay at high school for an extra year and then win a place at summer school at America’s prestigious Harvard University prior to coming here.
Friday February 17 is Care Day – the second annual event run in partnership by Who Cares? Scotland to celebrate the lives and successes of care experienced people like Florence. The five nations initiative involves simultaneous events in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Edinburgh Napier’s Principal, Professor Andrea Nolan, has also signed up to The Scottish Care Leavers Covenant for institutions who work with and support care experienced people.
Florence, of Leith, who graduated from Edinburgh Napier last October and started work as a fully qualified nurse, spoke at the time about how she hoped to inspire other youngsters growing up in care.
She said: “Too many young people who go into care end up dropping out of education. But, for me, education was something positive I could focus on when everything else in my life was going wrong.
“It wasn’t easy and I must be the only student in Scotland to have sat ‘seventh year’ at high school but it was what I needed to do to get the grades for university.
“Now, I’ve graduated and have just started work as a fully qualified nurse, like my mum was before me. I know she would be very proud of me.”
Florence’s mum, Michelle, had left her home in Jamaica and brought her daughter and two young sons to live in Scotland after getting a job here as a nurse.
Florence was taken into care aged 14, and spent three months in a secure unit in Morpeth, Northumberland as well as living at a care home in the Lothians.
Staff there supported her through her final years at school and she got the grades she needed to begin an adult nursing degree at Edinburgh Napier in 2012.
She said: “Everything I’ve been through has shaped me as a person and I wouldn’t change any of the tough things because they have made me who I am. Being brought up in care is not an excuse for not following your dreams – if anything, it is the reason why you need to dream bigger.”