A former brickie who left school with one GCSE has won a place at Hughes Hall after ending up on the dole.
Imagine leaving school with one GCSE, becoming a brickie, hurting your back, moving back in with your parents, going on the dole, then having your dad die.
This was what happened to Paul Lee, who is now enjoying his second year at Hughes Hall reading history.
Paul admits to having always had an interest in books, but says that he showed little academic interest upon reaching secondary school, for fear of being called a swot.
So he left education to take up the trades, and spent over ten years on various building sites across the Manchester area.
Upon getting sciatica, however, Mr Lee was unable to continue his work because of the shooting pains in his legs.
He ended up trapped in the benefits culture described so often by CUCA, and eventually moved back home as his dad battled against cancer – a fight that he eventually lost.
‘Well, that’s it. My life’s over’, said Paul as he described how he felt in 2006, yet went on to say: "When my dad died it was like I needed a shock of that magnitude to force myself out of the rut".
He joined his local college and went on to gain five A*s. He was ‘stunned’ to be told by his teachers that he should apply for Cambridge. He did, however, and despite a ‘terrible’ interview, got offered a place.
Paul is delighted to be here: “There was a time when I thought my life was over,” he says. “That sounds a bit melodramatic, I know, but I was just devastated. And now here I am – at Cambridge University.”
He admits to being nervous about the culture of toffs and nerds, but apparently found acceptance early-on.
Paul almost dropped out though, when he though that he "wasn’t clever enough to be here".
He got a 2.1 last year, and in the future may become a teacher, although he wants to ‘keep his options open’.
Victoria Clark, Tit Hall, had this to say: “this just proves that Cambridge shouldn’t be full of rich stereotypes, I think some of the gits at Johns should read this and have a reality check”.
A student from Johns, who asked to remain anonymous, responded: “whilst I think that Paul’s story is inspirational, let’s not be silly. I hurt my back when I fell off my horse in a polo accident, and only scraped through my exams with the help of the best tutors money could provide.”