May 18, 2017 | Simon Jenkins
As the Laidlaw Library neared completion in 2015, labourer Liam Knights carried doors, skirting boards and architrave into the building.
With few formal qualifications and periods of homelessness and prison behind him, he knew the future looked bleak. But seeing students both here and in his home town of Bradford inspired him to turn his life around: “They all looked happy and without a care in the world – and they were a similar age to me. I wondered what steps I could take to become one of them.”
On his penultimate shift, Liam left a personal time capsule hidden inside the library: “I wrote a note to myself and secured it behind a panel in the lift shaft. I knew I’d only be able to get to it if I was back in the library – and I could only achieve that by becoming a student.”
Two years on, Liam has fulfilled that ambition. After completing a foundation year, he’s now nearing the end of his first year degree studies in Criminology, supported by a scholarship.
Each year, hundreds of Leeds students from disadvantaged backgrounds are given this much-needed support, thanks to the generosity of alumni, staff and other donors. Over the coming weeks, a Campaign run by the Alumni and Development team will be focussed on encouraging donors to support students enrolling in September.
These gifts do more than simply help pay the bills, as Liam explains: “It gives you such motivation to know that someone you’ve never met is helping you and believes in you. I’ve never really had that in my life.”