A Derry health and fitness graduate has encouraged others to return to education after fighting her way back to fitness following a long-term battle with obesity.
Diane Gillon this week graduated from Ulster University with a B.Sc. Honours in Sport, Physical Activity and Health.
The Derry woman, who comes from Kennedy Place, returned to formal education after 13 years to pursue her dream of working in public health and child sports development.
Diane struggled with her weight for most of her life until concerns for her health prompted her to seek help and join a gym.
It was here she found her passion for fitness, eventually training as a gym instructor and later working as a gym manager, striving to help those who, like herself, found it difficult to be active due to disability, lifestyle or illness.
After the sudden closure of her gym, Diane sought the academic qualifications to pursue a formal career in public health. She obtained an ONC and HND before going on to study Sport, Physical Activity and Health at Ulster University and hopes to continue her education with a Masters in September.
During her time at the Ulster University, Diane also completed the Extra Edge Award, an award-winning sports programme, and was honoured for her contribution as a Student Representative.
Commenting on her experience of returning to education, Diane said: “It was 13 years since I had been in education and many of the simple tasks performed by my younger classmates were a challenge for me.
“It had been over 30 years since I had to do any maths and I had to get my GCSE Maths in order to get into University, which I discovered once I applied. Not to be beaten, I did a crash course alongside finishing my HND and passed. I viewed the practical challenges, such as getting on the floor and doing push ups alongside students 30 years younger than me, as fun rather than a challenge”
Diane went on to praise the experience, stating: “I would like to encourage anyone that hasn’t been involved in higher education to give it a go whether it is for their own personal development or to improve their circumstances.
“I was never interested in education but by returning to university I discovered a whole world of new experiences and had fun along the way.”
Diane graduated with the rest of her course on Monday last in the Millennium Forum.
For more information on courses at Ulster University visit www.ulster.ac.uk