Aimee Woosnam, 36, from Shrewsbury was inspired to study for a degree and become a sports coach herself after joining a beginners’ running club and receiving support from her coach.
She explained: “When I left secondary school, I started to develop anorexia. It started off as a simple diet and 18 years down the line, there I still was stuck with anorexia and not much of a life.
“Then I joined a beginners’ running group and that changed me. My coach, Colin Lancaster, approached me and said "I can help you get better but you’ve got to 100% honest with me". I started to get better and saw the benefits of being stronger.”
Aimee enrolled on the BSc (Hons) Physical Education and Youth Sport Coaching at Staffordshire University, with the first two years delivered at Shrewsbury College.
“Until 4 years ago, I spent most of my life as an inpatient on an eating disorders unit not too far from the University.
“Two months into the first year of my degree I was discharged from eating disorders services after 18 years. Then it was my degree that kept me going really. Today, I couldn’t feel prouder to be a Staffordshire University graduate.”
During her studies, Aimee received first class marks for all of her assignments, including a podcast about coaching athletes with eating disorders in which she spoke to former Olympic athlete and President of the Lydiard Foundation Lorraine Moller.
“I started off thinking that I’ll just do a degree so I can be a really good running coach and then I’ve just loved the academic side of things more and more. From then, I just thought this is where I want to go and I want to pursue my research.”
Anorexia isn’t the only challenge that Aimee has faced throughout her life. Until the age of eight Aimee was a selective mute. However, during her graduation ceremony last month she delivered a speech to hundreds of fellow graduates and guests.
“I was truly honoured and privileged to deliver the speech on behalf of my graduating cohort. My teachers at primary school held me back because I wouldn’t say the word “look” in my first ever book. Eventually, I overcame the shyness, I found the confidence to have my voice heard, and my parents say I never shut up now!”
Having competed her undergraduate degree, Aimee is staying at Staffordshire University to study for an MSc Applied Research and hopes to become a lecturer herself in the future.
She added: “I’d love to be able to inspire students to keep going and to always try their best. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get a first as long as you know that you’ve tried your best because that’s all you can ever do. I want to stay here forever - if they’ll give me a lecturing job then I’ll be staying forever!”
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