Community and Youth Worker’s legacy lives on through memorial award

Teresa Driver, who sadly passed away last summer aged 48, graduated from the University of Sunderland in 2008 with a degree in Community and Youth Work Studies. Teresa, passionate about improving the lives of young people, went on to become a key partner to the University’s Community and Youth Work programme in her role as Youth and Community Services Co-ordinator at The Annexe, a community and youth facility run by the Wharton Trust in Hartlepool.
As well as supervising many students from the course on placement at The Annexe, Teresa, who was from Hartlepool, supported the programme in other ways too, including as an external member of the Programme Studies Board. Her involvement in the joint conference between Sunderland and the University of Derby in 2018 was typical of the extra support she was always willing to give in order to promote Community and Youth Work and the importance of exploring new ways of bringing youth work skills and approaches into new practice settings.
Now, the University of Sunderland, along with the support of Teresa’s family and the Wharton Trust, has organised an annual prize dedicated in her memory to an outstanding student, who reflects Teresa’s devotion to supporting Youth Work and communities.
Michelle Payne, from East Boldon, was chosen for her outstanding performance across all areas of the Community and Youth Work programme.
The 40-year-old, who graduated with a First Class Honours this month, said: “I feel incredibly honoured to receive this award from Teresa’s family.
“Although I did not know Teresa personally, she was highly regarded amongst my fellow students who carried out their work placements at The Annex.
“Teresa not only studied and supported the course, but she was also pivotal within her community. This is so inspiring and a quality and ethos that I will always strive towards.”
Michelle added: “Community and Youth Work is all about giving something back. It can be challenging at times, however, if the last few years have taught us anything – support, friendship and dialogue is key to people and communities thriving. This is what spurs me on.”
Michelle was presented with the honour by Teresa’s daughter Kayleigh and son Michael during the graduation ceremonies at the Stadium of Light.
Kayleigh said: “I think my mam’s most notable achievements can’t be found in her degrees or awards. They can be seen and are felt the most within the communities she worked with, grew with, and strived for. I’m so impressed by her professional achievements even more so since becoming a parent myself, as she did it all whilst being a parent to two children.
“I feel that the University of Sunderland was one part of my mam’s life she loved and enjoyed the most, despite all the course work! I always remember the time she did the weekly shop at 10pm and other times when she got up at 1am to finish her essays! I am so proud of my mam and what she achieved.
“I hope this award inspires those with an interest in Community and Youth Work to pursue that interest.”
Professor Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society at Sunderland, said: “We are very grateful to the Wharton Trust for sponsoring the Teresa Driver Memorial Prize.
“This prize is in recognition of the work Teresa did which contributed to the important work of the faculty. Teresa’s work with the Trust in Hartlepool ensured that many students benefitted from placement experiences and subsequent employment over the years. The prize is worthy recognition of her contribution to Community and Youth Work.”
Michelle, who worked in the travel industry for 21 years before deciding to pursue her dream career in Youth Work, is now looking forward to an exciting new chapter – having just begun a graduate programme with the Northern Housing Consortium based in Sunderland.
She said: “I had a life changing moment in 2016, which made me reassess everything. From then on, I did some volunteering and I started looking into how I could possibly change my career to something that would really help people.
“Community and Youth Work was not something I was aware of until I came to the University Open Day, and it just so happened that one of the Community and Youth Work lecturers came to the social work talk.
“Community and Youth Work really called to me that day and the rest is history. I have never looked back.”

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