From a prison cell to academia: the story of Natalie AtkinsonBy Editor
Amongst the scores of people who attend university, it is unusual that you will see someone who has over a hundred convictions under their belt taking lecture notes. However, over at The University of Cumbria’s Lancaster campus, a 24-year-old has put a history of crime behind her to attain a first class degree.
Natalie Atkinson had a troubled upbringing, and was taken away into care at the age of 13. Despite excelling in secondary school, she dropped out, which is where her life took a turn for the worst. Starting in children’s secure units, Atkinson found herself in proper prison and was surrounded by more severe convicts. It was at this point when she realised that she needed to buck her ideas up.
Following her attainment of two GCSEs in English and maths whilst serving a custodial sentence, Atkinson began an Access to Higher Education diploma where she was advised to apply at the University of Cumbria.
Even with the intellect and qualifications to perform well, the Lancaster-born student was worried whether she’d go down well with her peers: “My biggest fear was that I would not fit in to the university but my concerns were soon put behind me. From day one I have felt supported and empowered to achieve my potential.”
Her story has been of such interest that in 2012 BBC asked her to present a documentary, ‘Banged Up and Left to Fail?’, which concentrated on the struggle of getting on with life after coming out of prison, which was broadcast in spring of this year.
When summer rolled by Atkinson was ecstatic to receive a first in policing, investigation and criminology (BSc). Musing on her exceptional grade after her uneasy past, she proclaimed: “I never thought I would return to education and now I am about to graduate with a degree and go on to study a post-graduate course.” And she isn’t just on any course, either. In the Autumn Natalie will be partaking in a masters in Criminal Justice Policy at the highly regarded London School of Economics.