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Jill Jones - Director of Education. My story.

Updated: Feb 15, 2023



At the age of 17, really struggling with body image issues and an eating disorder I knew I needed help. Not really knowing how to access the help I needed I finally plucked up the courage to join my local gym. Despite my initial fear and a reluctance to wear anything that might show the slightest bit of my body (I always wore the baggiest of clothes) I attended my very first gym session. What I didn’t realise at the time was just how much of an effect this would have on my life. Exercising didn’t just change my body it helped me to control my emotions. After 6 months of exercising daily my results were unimaginable (to me anyway), I no longer felt the need to make myself sick, I was focused on my goals, and I felt strong for the first time in my life. I was more confident, sleeping better and happier than I had ever been. Not only that but I became part of a community, I felt like I belonged, and my social life took off.

Finding the gym not only completely changed my life both physically and mentally, it gave me the desire and drive to become a personal trainer myself. This became my life. I loved helping others to overcome whatever perceived barriers they had towards exercise and enabling them on their journey to achieve their goals.

It was during my time as a personal trainer and gym manager that I was approached by a local College and offered a full-time position as a lecturer in the sports Science, Outdoor Adventure, and Public & Uniformed Services department

My background and experience in the sports and fitness industry was initially the reason I was hired. However, both my ability and success when working with vulnerable and supported learning students lead to a number of other departments requesting I work with them to help them design and deliver a variety of course targeted to this specific type of learner.

This included.

© Working with unemployed adults delivering Work Skills and employability courses.

© Working with socially deprived, unemployed teenagers delivering Work Skills and employability courses

© Working with disadvantaged vulnerable women on parole at ‘Tomorrows Women Wirral’ delivering Life Skills courses.

© Tutoring and guiding learners with a wide range of additional support needs including ADD, ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, social anxiety, mental health issues, physical and mental abuse, and looking after every aspect of their pastoral care

Whilst doing this I was asked to design and pilot the colleges Foundation Learning Tier course in Sport, the success of which led onto me designing and delivering a Team Building course for vulnerable 14-16-year-olds in collaboration with The Duke of Edinburgh team. This is where I thrived, dealing with challenging behaviour, helping learners to overcome their perceived barriers to learning and working with SEN learners.

Despite being extremely happy, it was during this time I experienced something that I never personally believed I would ever have to deal with; I became a victim of workplace bullying.

My life slowly fell apart and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. I went from being a highly regarded work colleague with excellent workplace relationships, to being totally isolated and my professional capability questioned. I was helpless, powerless to do anything about my situation as the perpetrator was in senior management. Although others were aware of the situation it felt like no one would risk helping me for fear of repercussions, others joined in, in what I can only assume was a fear of being targeted themselves. By the time the perpetrator was disciplined and dismissed it was too late for me, my mental health was so impacted by the experience that I had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, which eventually lead to a full breakdown. The stigma I faced around my mental health in my workplace only added to my problems and after finally reaching out for help I was signed off work for over two years and had to undergo intensive therapy and counselling in an attempt to recover from this life changing experience. Although this was workplace based the fallout from this impacted every part of my life and having come through the other side, I knew that my experiences would be able to help others.

When I was approached to join Inspiring Your Future, an organisation that was passionate about tackling and helping to solve some of the pressing issues that face our communities, I really felt that I could make a difference. Not only am I able to revive my passion for education I am also able to draw upon my own mental health struggles and talk openly about them, without fear of judgement or stigma.

I am dedicated to working with and helping people with mental health issues, because I’ve been there, and I know how debilitating it can be. Most importantly though I know with the right interventions, help, advice, empathy and guidance you can overcome anything.

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