University Stories

Below are stories from families that we have helped with our university bursary.

Destined for a career in Law

Eloise Prendergast recently graduated from the University of Manchester with a First Class Honours degree in English Literature and has been offered a graduate job with one of the Magic Circle law firms in London.

Eloise, who is 21 years old, told us "The POOBI bursary was invaluable to my achievements as it meant, whilst I still had to work part-time to support myself financially, I was able to devote a lot of time to study, undertake unpaid work experience, complete job applications, attend interviews and cover my travel costs to and from London. POOBI's support enabled me to become the outstanding candidate I needed to be, because it was difficult to get this graduate job in the face of super strong competition from the thousands of students applying. I cannot thank POOBI enough, as I definitely wouldn't be where I am today without the POOBI University Grant.

"The law firm I have joined is now fully funding me whilst I am studying for the Graduate Diploma in Law and the Legal Practice Course. I will be fully qualified as a solicitor once I have worked at the law firm for two years."

Michael Prendergast, Eloise's father, works for Post Office Limited in London, in the Islington branch office where he has worked for 21 years.

Rhianna Ford.

From cheerleading to networking events

Twenty-one year old Rhianna Ford studied psychology at the University of East Anglia for three years with the support of a POOBI bursary. Rhianna graduated in July 2018 with a BSc psychology 2:2 degree and she now works in networking events in London for corporate companies. "My ambition is to establish my own events company," Rhianna told us.

Rhianna was a member of the university's cheerleaders group and became a coach in her third year. It was an important part of her social life, giving her opportunities to travel to Spain and Croatia for sports events. "The POOBI bursary enabled me to afford my accommodation at Uni, the cost of essential books, travel expenses and my cheerleaders outfits and Membership of the group. I will be forever grateful to POOBI for enabling me to have a great three years in university." Rhianna said.

Rhianna's father, Peter Ford, has worked for the Post Office for 40 years in various parts of the country, starting in London and is currently a postman at the Ryde delivery office on the Isle of Wight. Peter said "We are very appreciative of the enormous help the POOBI bursary gave us to support Rhianna through university."

Rhianna's mother, Sue, told us "I encouraged Rhianna to take full advantage of the social life the extra-curricular activities that university life offered. Being a member of the University's cheerleaders group for three years gave her exciting opportunities and was a great way to make friends."

Gurkha's daughter helped by POOBI

Sumnima with her father Sumendra and her mother Babita.

With the support of a University Bursary from POOBI, 19-year-old Sumnima Rai started a BSc Psychology course at Goldsmiths, University of London, last October.

Sumnima dressed for Taekwondo.

"The POOBI bursary is enabling me to get the most out of my university experience, giving me the means to afford items such as a personal laptop" said Sumnima.

"Learning psychology at A Level encouraged me to have a different perspective on everyday life, which I wanted to develop in order to have a better understanding of human behaviour. My ambition after graduating is to work with organisations helping to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues, especially in newly developed and under developed countries. My ultimate ambition would be to publish children's picture books, introducing the subject of mental health to children from a very young age" Sumnima told us.

Through the university's Taekwondo Society, Sumnima was able to work with a company as a coach in primary schools, which led to her becoming a black belt in the sport.

Sumnima's father, Sumendra Rai, said "The POOBI bursary has helped my family immensely. My wife and I have part-time jobs and we could not have supported our daughter's further education without their help."

Sumendra served in the British Army with the Royal Gurkha Rifles for 15 years, between 1990 and 2005. When he retired in 2005 he became a British Citizen. He has been a part-time mailsorter (OPG) with Royal Mail for the past 11 years at the Medway Mail Centre in Strood, Kent.

Composing a music career

Zakia Fawcett

Zakia Fawcett

Eighteen year old Zakia Fawcett started a four year BMus (hons) degree in Composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in September last year.

"I feel honoured to be funded by POOBI and I truly believe I would not be studying here without their financial support. Their bursary makes all the difference to my experience, it allows me to not only survive, but thrive," said Zakia.

Zakia's father, Zak Fawcett, has been employed by the Royal Mail for 18 years and currently works as the PHG of the St. Andrews Delivery Office on the east coast of Scotland. He said Zakia began playing the violin and viola when she was seven and developed a great love for music and composition."

Zakia studied for her A levels at The Purcell School of Music in Bushey, Herts, with a scholarship from the Government's Music and Dance scheme. "Last year I was offered places at all of the conservatoires I applied to, including the Royal College of Music, but I chose to come back to Scotland.

"By the end of my four year course I want to be a well rounded composer and sound artist, with strengthened technical skills and have a strong portfolio of work and commissions with a focus on blurring the boundaries between art forms.

"After my undergraduate degree I plan to continue with postgraduate study. preferably at a European conservatoire. I'd like my professional life to focus predominantly on working collaboratively with experimental arts practices, dance and installations," Zakia said.

Zakia's composition 'Lost In This Moment' for string orchestra is to be performed alongside Sibelius' Romance (for strings) by the Cohen Ensemble at the South Bank Centre, London on 17 May this year.

"I am also ecstatic that I have been accepted for the Internatoinal Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme 2018, for which I will be studying composition for 2 weeks in August with composer Larry Groves at Snape Maltings Concert Hall, a leading Arts Venue in Suffolk," Zakia said.

Harriet achieves her childhood ambition

HarrietDunn and parents

Harriet at her graduation ceremony with her proud parents Andy and Donna.

The POOBI University Bursary has helped 21-year-old Harriet Dunn with her university studies and has enabled her to secure a job as a Police Community Support Officer with Derbyshire Constabulary.

Harriet in uniform.

Harriet graduated on 26th July 2017 with a 1st class classification in Criminology with Policing and Investigations from Birmingham City University. She started her job as a PCSO in November 2017.

"It has always been my ambition to work for the police since I was eight years old. I have always looked up to them as role models and aspired to be one of them.

"On behalf of my parents and myself I would like to thank POOBI from the bottom of my heart for all the support they have given me during my time at university, without which I wouldn't have been able to fund my studies and definitely wouldn't have passed with the highest grading possible," Harriet said.

Harriet's father, Andy Dunn, has been a postman for over 36 years in Burton on Trent, where the family lives.

Chelsie with her father Graham.

POOBI changed my life

Greenwich University graduate Chelsie Read has landed her dream job working as a paramedic thanks to a bursary from the Post Office Orphans Benevolent Institution (POOBI).

After hearing about the scheme from a colleague, dad Graham applied and was awarded a grant worth £3,600, allowing his daughter to complete a three-year paramedic science degree.

‘It's been a great achievement for Chelsie,' said Graham, who is a postman in Wales. ‘She always wanted to be a paramedic and we're really proud of her. I'd definitely recommend POOBI to anyone thinking of applying. It's been a huge help to us.'

Chelsie is now a qualified paramedic working for the South Western Ambulance service in Bristol.

‘POOBI changed my life and I feel so lucky,' she said. ‘The experience has been amazing and I'm really grateful. Without the grant I wouldn't have been able to do extra courses and events, which really helped me learn more about the profession.'

Last year, POOBI celebrated a decade of awarding university bursaries. It has helped hundreds of Royal Mail families, like Graham and Chelsie.

Original story featured on 17th May 2017.

Top of the class

Jay Ugra with his father Manjit

Jay with his father Manjit.

A postman's son is forging a career in IT consultancy with help from the Post Office Orphans Benevolent Institution (POOBI).

Manjit Ugra has worked at Slough delivery office for almost 30 years and secured funding from POOBI – which provides bursaries for the families of colleagues who need financial support – for his son Jay to study economics at the University of Birmingham.

While studying, Jay got a place on technology consultancy Capgemini's Community Challenge, which is sponsored and run by Billie Major who is Royal Mail's ex-head of sales and marketing and now Capgemini's senior vice president. He's since joined the firm's two-year graduate scheme as an associate consultant.

Jay says: ‘I'm hugely grateful to POOBI. I'd saved up since I was born to go to university, but I still couldn't have afforded to go without the extra help. Had I taken a year out, I might have missed out on Capgemini's placement scheme. I'm also extremely thankful to Billie. It's because of her I have this job.'

Jay Ugra at his graduation

Jay Ugra at his graduation.

Jay previously did a work placement at Slough delivery office under the management of Ursula Sabir. He says: ‘I really struggled to keep up, it's amazing that my dad has being doing that for so many years.

‘One of Capgemini's key values is modesty, something I hugely appreciate as I've come from a humble background and have been taught the value of hard work.'

Manjit says: ‘I am very proud of what Jay has achieved and am extremely grateful for POOBI's financial support. I would wholeheartedly encourage others to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.'

POOBI support is available to the families of Royal Mail employees.

Original story appeared in Royal Mail Courier March 2017 issue.

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