Inspirational council employee and care leaver graduates with first class honours degree

A Kirklees Council employee and care leaver has graduated from Huddersfield University with a first class honours degree – and now she wants her story to inspire others.

Who is Sanna?

Sanna Mahmood, 25 from Huddersfield entered the care system aged just 14 following the breakdown of her home life. She was placed in foster care and credits her foster parents for their unconditional support and encouragement, showing a path that previously had not been available to her.

How did Sanna begin her career?

Sanna started her career as an apprentice in Children and Young People Services and completed a one-year work placement in various council departments. This enabled her to apply for a degree in Health and Community Development with the hope of working in Human Resources.

At the same time, Sanna continued supporting vulnerable young people by volunteering with the council’s Children in Care team – a forum for fostered children to share their experiences, discuss any issues and ask for additional help.

Our Chief Executive is a key supporter

A key supporter of Sanna and her journey has been the council’s very own Chief Executive, Jacqui Gedman, whom she met during her first year in university. Sanna describes the moment as ‘one of the most life-changing things ever to happen to me’. The first meeting took place during Care Leavers’ Week at the Achieve Awards, which celebrate the achievements of care leavers in Kirklees.

Sanna said:

“I fully embraced being in care because the people that were looking after me were so encouraging, supporting and inspiring; they really helped to build my confidence. I chose to go to Huddersfield University because of the wealth of resources that are available for care leavers in Kirklees.
Being in care we often meet our corporate parents, such as councillors, MPs and council directors, but Jacqui was so different. She brought a new energy and showed me what a hard-working, professional woman in leadership looked like.
She offered me a chance of a lifetime as a Care Leavers Advocate, not only to shadow her personally but to re-launch the Children in Care Council, Care Leavers Forum and run various projects. I can’t thank her enough for her support and encouragement. I know I’m very lucky.”

What is Sanna doing now?

Sanna also works at the No 11 drop-in centre, which was developed by the council as a place where children in care and care leavers can receive help and advice. The centre has been praised by central government as an innovative way of giving young people extra support.

Supporting our children and young adults in care

In the role of corporate parent, the whole council has a duty to protect and promote children in care and care leavers.

Jacqui Gedman, who attended Sanna’s recent graduation, said:

“Sanna is truly inspirational. She entered the care system at a vulnerable age and, with the support of council services and the people around her, she has grown up to be a dedicated and passionate young woman who has achieved so much.
It’s fantastic that Sanna has chosen to support other young people, to give so much back and to use her personal experiences in such a positive way. I’m incredibly proud of her.
The council has made it a priority to give children and young people the best start in life, and we are also passionate about nurturing talent within the organisation. We are all thrilled by Sanna’s success.”

Cllr Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council, added:

“I am very pleased in what Sanna has achieved. Despite her circumstances she has shown a high level of commitment and motivation to succeed. Young people who have been in care often face a lot of barriers, so the way they are supported can truly change lives. Sanna is a remarkable person and a shining example of someone who is fulfilling their potential. She is a role model for every single young person and I really believe that there are a lot more young people out there who, with the right support, care and guidance can achieve to their full potential.”

How to become a foster carer

We are always in need of foster carers to help us offer support and a safe environment for children in care. If you’d like more information on fostering you can contact the fostering team on 0800 389 0086 or visit our website.

Foster carers come from all ages and cultural backgrounds and they can be with or without children and in employment, retired or on benefits.

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