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Sam Peacock 1

Sam Peacock overcomes pandemic anxiety and balances caring duties for his Mum on graduation journey

Sam Peacock overcame pandemic-induced anxiety, contended with a long commute from Lincoln and fulfilled caring duties for his mum after she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis to graduate from York College University Centre as our Governors' Award winner.

When Sam’s mum Micky learned that she had the lifelong condition that affects the brain and nervous system during the final year of his Digital Technologies (Cybersecurity) Foundation Degree, roles quickly reversed in the Peacock family.

For the first year of his course, Sam had been driven to campus by Micky, whose support on the three-hour, 150-mile round trip was vital as he resumed an academic journey that had stalled when Covid-19 struck in 2020.

That period also coincided with the loss of Sam’s granddad, exacerbating the mental health struggles he and many others his age endured at the time.

Studying “exactly the course he wanted to do” at Sim Balk Lane and sharing a car with his mum, listening to a mutually appreciated playlist featuring the likes of Billie Eilish and the Thompson Twins, however, helped Sam recover from that difficult stage in his life.

“Covid happened and I locked myself away,” Sam recalled. “I cut myself off from everyone - friends and family. I had bad anxiety and it wasn’t good for my mental health.”

When Sam felt ready to return to education, he looked far and wide for a course that suited his needs.

Sam Peacock 2
Mum Micky used to drive Sam to College from Lincoln before her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis

On his decision to choose our University Centre, Sam explained: “In Lincolnshire, they don’t offer the specialisms I was looking for and couldn’t offer me the course that I wanted. I did a lot of research and there were a lot of emails between me and the tutor at York College.

“I then had a video call with York College and decided it was the right move. I got offers from other universities in the South and the North, but this course was exactly what I wanted and exactly what I signed up for.

“I’m now taking some time out to chill and recuperate. Then, I’ll look for work in cybersecurity.”

Inevitably, there were times when the trip to North Yorkshire was beset by traffic problems and Sam was late for class, but a solution was soon found for such scenarios.

“There were times when he was doing lessons in the back of the car – College set that up on Teams,” Micky said.

The journeys became a routine that both son and mother enjoyed but, when Micky started to lose feeling in her legs as Sam prepared for his second year, he turned to public transport in the form of trains and buses for the times he needed to be in College.

Sam Peacock 3
Sam chose our Digital Technologies (Cybersecurity) Foundation Degree course because "it was exactly what he was looking for"

An MS diagnosis followed with Sam now repaying the love that his mum had shown for him by assuming care responsibilities, alongside his studies.

On balancing both, Sam said: “We found a routine and it was no problem. It’s just what you do.

“My tutor was amazing and College was so supportive. If I didn’t have the support from them, then graduating wouldn’t have happened.

“The journey in was alright. In the countryside, where I’m from, there’s no buses or anything so, at the start, it was just trying to find where I needed to be.”

Sam even studied a Level 1 Functional Skills Maths evening course during his final year, also finding it a good way of making new friends and Micky is so proud of how her son has stepped up to the challenges thrown their way over the past year.

“Life has changed so much,” she declared. “I didn’t know I had MS, but I lost the feeling in my legs last year.

“I was told it was definitely MS four or five months ago and, without Sam’s support, I wouldn’t have got through it.”

Award winners together
Sam with his fellow Graduation Day prize winners