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06 November 2019
Our Study4Success award recognises students from social housing backgrounds who have made a difference in their community.
This year’s deserving winner is dance performance undergraduate Amy Sinclair, from Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Find out more about Amy, 20, and how she impressed our judges with her work to get young people talking about mental health issues.
Tell us about the work you’ve done in your community
I’m from Newtonabbey in Belfast. It has one of the biggest housing estates in the UK, called Rathcoole. I’ve lived there my whole life. I’ve known the same people my whole life. It’s a very tight, close community. It was here that I was introduced to a group called Youth Action NI, which has a School of Performing Arts called Rainbow Factory. I was 11 when I joined and I got to go to drama and dance classes every single week.
As I got older, I got involved in different projects. One of the biggest was a performance called Domino – it explored mental health issues in young people. There were ten people in the cast and we all had a part in putting the performance together, using our own experiences with anxiety and depression. It’s a really important subject. Lots of young people today suffer with stress. There’s also peer pressure, anxiety, depression. It’s awful. One of the problems is that, particularly in Belfast, I feel no-one speaks mental health. And I think that’s why there are so many suicides. So we went straight to the source, visiting different communities, like Rathcoole, and reaching out to young people, and their parents, with our performance to get them talking. It was a release for us too to be able to talk about our feelings.
The response we had was amazing. At the end of each performance we had discussions. There were mums and dads crying. My own family came to see it and I didn’t expect to see them so connected to a physical theatre piece that was only 20 minutes long. We heard some amazing stories. In Armagh, people told us about how they’d been impacted by a suicide of a girl in the community. They appreciated the opportunity to talk about it, because no-one had. No-one talks about it.
I really felt accomplished. I had a really good feeling after every performance. Preparing and rehearsing had been a long process but it was all for a good cause.
Why did you apply for Study4Success?
It’s always been my dream to live in London, but my mum and I were worried about the financial aspect of living by myself in such a big city. I had been working every weekend, getting up at 5am, just to save enough money.
We looked on the Middlesex University website for help and that’s how we found out about Study4Success. I thought I might as well go for it. I was so happy the day I was told I’d got it, I just couldn’t believe it. My mum was so happy for me too. We just can’t thank Optivo enough. They’ve taken away the worry of paying for halls this year, and it’s set me up for next year. It means I can really focus on my course.
Which halls are you staying in?
I’m living at Usher Hall. It’s brilliant. You can’t really complain, living just over the road from the campus. The staff are amazing: they really do check if you’re ok, if you need anything or whether there’s anything they can do for you.
I love my room too. When my mum and I initially walked in, we said we had a good feeling about it. For me, it was so nice coming from my own space back home to a fresh new space. It was nice and comforting. My mum even said she felt at home there!
I’ve made some really good friends – many of them are in other Optivo halls close to the campus. The community here is great.
How are you finding university so far?
It’s been scary and exciting. I’ve always been a person who’s loved being educated. I love being taught something and seeing the improvement in myself because I know I’m achieving something, especially in dance and theatre.
I absolutely love my course and all my tutors. There is a lot of work and it can be tiring but, for me, it’s worth it. I really want to push myself.
I’ve had a passion for dance since I was six and I’ve been in theatre since I was 11. I’ve seen lots of West End shows and they’re mind blowing. That’s where I want to be when I’m older. Hopefully, when I’ve finished this course, I’ll be one step closer to achieving it.
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