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Tragedy of my mother’s death spurred me on, says brave student

PUBLISHED: 23:21 19 October 2018

University of Suffolk graduation for School of Law and Social Sciences and School of Psychology and Education. Pictured is Gemma Abbott. Picture: GREGG BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY

University of Suffolk graduation for School of Law and Social Sciences and School of Psychology and Education. Pictured is Gemma Abbott. Picture: GREGG BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY

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A University of Suffolk student has talked openly about overcoming the death of her mother to win the “best dissertation” award.

University of Suffolk graduation for School of Law and Social Sciences and School of Psychology and Education. Pictured is Student Union President Georgia Downs Picture: GREGG BROWN PHOTOGRAPHYUniversity of Suffolk graduation for School of Law and Social Sciences and School of Psychology and Education. Pictured is Student Union President Georgia Downs Picture: GREGG BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY

When her mother died in her first year of university, Gemma Abbott wondered how she would cope.

But now, in a remarkable display of strength and courage, the University of Suffolk student has revealed how the tragedy spurred her on to graduate from university with flying colours, winning the best dissertation award.

The School of Law and Social Sciences student said the first year of her degree was “really difficult” as she came to terms with what had happened.

She added: “After my mum passed away in my first year it was really difficult. I thought I might take a year off but then I knew she would want me to plough on. She always taught me to be quite courageous and brave so I carried on with my studies.”

University of Suffolk graduation for School of Law and Social Sciences and School of Psychology and Education. Pictured is Honorary fellow Scott Russell. Picture: GREGG BROWN PHOTOGRAPHYUniversity of Suffolk graduation for School of Law and Social Sciences and School of Psychology and Education. Pictured is Honorary fellow Scott Russell. Picture: GREGG BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY

She donned her gown at a graduation ceremony to receive her Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in social work, along with the prize for the best dissertation.

Proud of her achievements, she now works in a child protection team and still cites her mum as her inspiration: “She had social workers involved over the years, and that’s partly why I chose the degree.”

A fellow graduate was current Students’ Union president Georgia Downs, who received a degree in psychology.

She said: “The university will always have a special place in my heart. I have made some amazing friends here.

University of Suffolk graduation for School of Law and Social Sciences and School of Psychology and Education. Picture: GREGG BROWN PHOTOGRAPHYUniversity of Suffolk graduation for School of Law and Social Sciences and School of Psychology and Education. Picture: GREGG BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY

“I can’t pick one thing that will be a lasting memory but I have been so excited for today.

“Even though I have helped with the planning process of the graduation ceremonies I didn’t think it would look even half as good as it does.”

The graduation saw Scott Russell, the founder and chief executive of Suffolk-based coffee brand Paddy & Scott’s, become an honorary fellow of the university.

Scott is a former EADT East Anglian Business Person of the Year and was championed by the Prime Ministers Enterprise Advisor, Lord Young, as well as ex-Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy.

University of Suffolk graduation for School of Law and Social Sciences and School of Psychology and Education. Pictured is Rachele Button. Picture: GREGG BROWN PHOTOGRAPHYUniversity of Suffolk graduation for School of Law and Social Sciences and School of Psychology and Education. Pictured is Rachele Button. Picture: GREGG BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY

Also receiving honorary degrees were Annie Clements, who has more than 30 years experience working with young people and disability and in delivering face-to-face youth work. It is estimated Annie’s work has affected at least 10,000 families

Maggie Jackaman was recognised for services to animal welfare and the community.

She founded Suffolk and Essex Small Animal Welfare, a charity that cares for and re-homes injured and homeless animals.

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