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Student overcomes stammer to start on path to becoming youth justice champion


January 5 2017

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A student whose stammer was so severe he could not read bedtime stories to his daughter is on his way to becoming a champion of youth justice.

Byron Ford, from Colwyn Bay, is currently studying for a BSc (Hons) Youth and Community at Wrexham Glyndwr University, having completed a foundation year.

The 25 year-old could barely finish a sentence before enrolling on an innovative speech therapy course – The McGuire Programme – five years ago, and is now able to communicate freely.

For someone who was unable to order a takeaway or even tell people where he lived – for fear he could not pronounce the name of his home town – the former Eirias High School pupil has made huge strides in a short time.

That gave him the confidence to enrol at Wrexham Glyndwr, on the first part of his journey to “give back” and enter the social care arena.

“I had done some volunteering with disabled children and community groups and liked the look of this degree, but I had never been a particularly academic person because of my speech problems,” said Byron.

“I literally would not speak to anyone, I was bullied and had no real friends. The only person I could talk to was one of the teachers or my brother and sister because I was too terrified to open my mouth.”

After becoming a father, Byron was devastated at not being able to speak with his daughter; he knew he had to do something and decided to pursue a place on The McGuire Programme.

An intense week of coaching and workshops culminated in him standing in front of more than 100 people in Cardiff city centre, where he gave a speech about the challenges he had overcome.

“I had to do something, I couldn’t even read a bedtime story to my little girl, Katelyn, or order a takeaway for me and my friends. I would stick to using the words I could say, because it was too much of a battle to do anything else,” he said.

“When The McGuire Programme accepted me I knew it was the time to make that change in my life, and I’m so glad I did because it led me to this degree. I would not have been able to do it otherwise, I would still be wallowing in self-pity at home.”

Byron, currently an assistant youth worker in Saltney, added: “My whole life was basically dictated by my stammer. I had no confidence and never felt I could achieve anything.

“That’s changed now and is part of the reason why I want to work with young people, especially those who find it difficult to communicate. I want to help keep them out of jail and inspire them to take the right path in life.

“I had never dreamed of going to university until my fiancée encouraged me to go for it. Now here I am, studying for a degree with a stepping stone to the future.”

Programme leader Jess Achilleos says the course – which achieved 100% student satisfaction in the 2016 National Student Survey – attracts people of all ages who are looking to enter different sectors.

“We encourage our students to share their learning journey with the rest of the cohort, and Byron has been on an amazing journey,” said Jess.

“Unlike a lot of bigger universities we can offer that personal touch and be more flexible, which is a big selling point for us and one of the reasons Byron joined us, as well as the foundation year.

“I wish him well with the rest of his studies and know he will go on to achieve whatever he wants to achieve – he’s an inspiration.”

Visit www.wgu.ac.uk/YouthandCommunity for more.

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