Doors are already opening for soon-to-be graduate and President of Grŵp Llandrillo Menai's Higher Education Student Union.

Andrea Faulkner has just completed her BA Hons degree in Health, Social Care and Social Policy at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai's Rhos-on-Sea campus, which is this year celebrating 50 years of delivering higher education courses.

Days after handing in her dissertation, Andrea was briefing the Chair of a House of Commons' Parliamentary Select Committee on a motion to roll out the Housing First initative across the UK.

She has also already started developing a business plan to provide accommodation for people recovering from substance and other addictions in North Wales, seeking advice from Grŵp Llandrillo Menai's Enterprise Champion.

Andrea returned to higher education later in life, enrolling with Grŵp Llandrillo Menai in 2017, seven years after gaining a foundation degree in Community Development at Bangor University.

Originally from Holyhead and now living in Rhyl, she founded Kinmel Bay Outdoor Pursuits Club in 2005 to promote a healthier and more active lifestyle within the community. The Club offers access to outdoor activities for those who would not otherwise have the opportunity to take part.

Alongside running the club on a voluntary basis, she worked as Assistant Manager at a local caravan park until 2017 when she decided to go back to follow a full degree course.

50 year old mother-of-four Andrea said: "I had a good job so it was a big decision for me to take the leap back into education.

"But I've always had a passion for social and community work, and really wanted to go more into the housing and addiction policy side of things.

"Studying for my degree has been one of the best things I've ever done. The knowledge and skills it's given me is absolutely priceless, but the biggest thing for me is that it's given me a huge confidence boost.

"I now feel I can hold my own, which is invaluable when trying to influence policy and make a difference.

She added: "Growing up, nobody in my family had gone to college or University, but anyone can aspire to learn and achieve. From my experience, higher education opens so many doors and makes you believe that nothing can hold you back.

"I am particularly proud that my daughter is starting a degree course in September. One of the reasons for me to work hard is to show my children they can do it too." 

Like many others, Andrea has had to complete her studies during lockdown. She said: "I'm gutted that there won't be a graduation ceremony this summer, but we've all had to adjust.

"And to be honest, the support from the college during lockdown has been really good. I've been lucky to have an amazing tutor who's been in regular contact, and the other support services like the library have also been fantastic." 

Grŵp Llandrillo Menai is now recruiting for its 50th cohort of higher education learners. Courses are available at Rhos-on-Sea and the other campuses across North West Wales, with a combination of remote and on-site learning set to resume in September in line with Government guidelines. 

With higher education qualifications across a range of subjects - from game development and computing, to fine arts, outdoor recreation and engineering - Andrea's message couldn't be clearer:

"I'd strongly recommend it! If I can do it, anyone can."