Mother and son celebrate joint graduation in Youth and Community Work


Mother and son, Suzy Preston-Joch and Kai Preston-Cowell from Carmarthen, are celebrating both graduating with first class honours degrees from the BA Youth and Community Work programme at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) this week. They say that studying together was a unique and enriching experience and now have plans to undertake a local youth project together.

Kai Preston-Cowell & Suzy Preston-Joch

Kai Preston-Cowell and Suzy Preston-Joch.

Suzy left school in 1981 and before joining the degree course she had worked for most of her life with children and young people as a nanny.

“Despite my years of experience with young people I had no professional qualifications to prove my knowledge and experience, so I decided to work towards gaining a degree in Youth and Community that focuses on children and adolescent development and youth empowerment,” she says.

Kai joined the same course because he has always enjoyed helping others and supporting people but had not been able to see how to turn this into a job opportunity. Then one his new neighbours, who was a level 6 Youth and Community student at the time, spotted his youth working potential and recommended that he look into the course.

“Due to having experienced some adversity in my life, as well as wanting to work in a sector that helps and promotes young people, I felt that this course was meant for me and decided to enrol in UWTSD,” he says.

Suzy and Kai both quickly realised they had found their niche.

“I found the experience of going to university as an older person both exciting and eye opening and found studying the same degree alongside my son both rejuvenating and unique,” says Suzy. “Learning and working together has been both a wonderful personal and professional experience that has further strengthened our already strong bond and relationship.”

Kai agrees that the experience of studying together was a hugely positive one.

“Although studying at university is an amazing experience in its own right, having studied the same course alongside my mother was even more unique,” he says. “Being able to bounce youth work ideas and theories off of each other and fact check each other was not only beneficial to our studies, but also helped us understand each other better due to having looked back and analysed our past experiences through reflective practice.

“As much as finding ways of rewording the similar topics, looking for alternative references for assignments and ensuring we avoided plagiarising each other added to the daily stresses, it also enhanced our wider reading, made us both more professional and helped us to see things in different and often more beneficial lights.”

Suzy now feels well placed to obtain better employment in the future. She hopes to open a youth project in her local community, working alongside Kai, empowering young people to develop skills and assisting them to achieve their ambitions and reach their full potential.

“Overall, aside from the knowledge, experience and wisdom the course provides, I have noticed an improvement in my confidence, resilience, self-esteem and outlook on life,” she says. “I had in the past always felt that I was not good enough academically to study at higher education level, and I think the experience of studying at UWTSD has changed my life for the better. I now feel I can move forward with confidence and pride both personally and professionally.”

Besides a future collaboration with his mother, Kai now hopes to move into the city and gain employment in the youth and community field. He hopes to inspire not only young people and future generations through youth and community-based work, but also to break down the generation divide and help all generations achieve their full potential.

“I also hope to leave a better world behind for the future generations to inherit and will be working hard towards achieving a more sustainable future,” he says.

Angharad Lewis, Programme Director BA Youth and Community Work, is delighted with Suzy and Kai’s achievement, and with how much effort and commitment they put into their studies.

“The Youth Work programme team is incredibly proud of Suzy's and Kai's achievements, both graduating with first class honours degrees, and also graduating with a professional qualification in youth work,” she says. 

“In their final year of study, Suzy and Kai were instrumental in the running of the YouToo project on the Carmarthen campus, which is a project established and led by youth work students in recent years as an alternative social space for students on campus.  It was excellent to see how Suzy and Kai grew this project under their leadership this academic year, with a regular attendance of 20 students, many of whom were international students.”

Further Information

For further information, please contact Sian-Elin Davies, Principal Communications and PR Officer on 01267 676908 / 07449 998476