MARIA CASE - BA (HONS) INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND POLITICS (2008)

When Maria Case was a child and young teenager, educational psychologists warned that she was unlikely to even get GCSEs because of her learning difficulties.

The 23-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, won the university’s Owen Powell Student Prize as well as the Politics Best Student Prize for outstanding achievement in her degree, after being awarded a first-class degree in International Relations and Politics.

Maria, has some physical difficulties but has always been determined to reach her full potential in every respect. She said: “It was an incredible surprise and a real honour to be awarded the prizes. When you have people knocking you back sometimes, it can be hard, but I have always just wanted to keep going and reach as high as I can go. Keele has enabled me to achieve my potential.

“Too often people with disabilities are referred to as disabled, but the term ‘disabled’ is negative. A disability is just one of numerous facets of the person. Each person has gifts and talents. I hope that what I have achieved will inspire others. Motivation, together with the appropriate support, can make a huge difference to people’s academic and physical performance. I hope to bring that message to society.”

The £100 pound prize, which Maria shared with fellow student, Tom Coupe, is named in honour of Owen Powell, the founder and leader of the Keele World Affairs Group, who became an MBE in 2006 for his work with adult education.

Congratulating the prize-winners, Mr Powell said: “As someone who was a late developer and didn’t get a degree until my late 60s, I know the hard work that you have both put into your studies and I am really pleased that you have won this prize – you really deserve it.”

Maria added that she was “immensely grateful to the academic and administrative staff of the School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy at Keele University for their support and encouragement.”