Niveda Kiridaran, Alumna, BSc (Hons) Human Nutrition

“Never take no for an answer – there is a way around every barrier”

Niveda Kiridaran (BSc (Hons) Human Nutrition, 2022), is the latest recipient of the John Nicholson Prize for Excellence and Integrity in Overcoming Adversity. She tells us about what it took to get her to university, the challenges she’s overcome and why she’s proud to be a tough cookie.

My earliest ambition was to be a paediatrician. This was partly because I come from an encouraging and competitive family. But it was also because I was around paediatricians for much of my childhood, as I was born with brittle bone disease and spent a lot of time in hospital.

I faced challenges at school but always enjoyed studying. I was in a wheelchair and had several major surgeries that meant I missed long stretches of school in year 10 and in sixth form. As a result, I had to change from A-levels to BTECs, which I took in Public Services, Applied Science and Health and Social Care. I decided to aim for children’s nursing rather than being a doctor. I was nervous about applying to uni, but I completed my UCAS form and kept my fingers crossed.

LSBU offered me a chance when other universities wouldn’t. They all rejected my application without offering an explanation as to why a children’s nursing course wasn’t suitable, but LSBU wanted to meet me. The meeting went well, and they suggested I apply for Human Nutrition, for which they’d be happy to offer me a place. I was asked to do a foundation year, just to make sure everything was manageable. That year went smoothly, and I began my course in 2019.

LSBU also gave me the opportunity – and the support – to live independently. I still miss my room in D Block, Bomberg House! The university fully adapted the space for me, and I made a lot of happy memories there.

COVID-19 interrupted my studies and made life difficult for a while. It was hard to stay positive during lockdown. I had to leave uni, I lost my carer and, being dyslexic, I found doing exams online was not a great experience. The second year of stop/start lockdowns was better as I was able to move back and forth, but then I had to undergo some treatments, which kept me out of the classroom for an extra month. Those two years were pretty tough.

I’m not afraid to put myself out there. I was course representative for three years, and I’ve made reels for LSBU and have my own YouTube channel. I was bullied at school because I was smaller than other children and used a wheelchair, and I found that getting people to understand more about my condition made a difference. Raising awareness matters and it’s important to be visible. I’ve represented the university at many events, including one at the House of Lords. I’m quite tough because of the things I’ve been through – and I’m not shy about who I am.

Life comes around in the most surprising ways. When I was first thinking about going to university, I attended an Aiming High event and it helped me feel more positive about applying to LSBU. [Aiming High is a government-sponsored organisation dedicated to helping children and young people with disabilities achieve their potential]. Just a few years later I found myself invited to one of their events as a speaker. That was a good feeling!

I really believe that there is a way around every barrier. To anyone who is struggling with challenges in their life, maybe thinking they can’t manage university, I’d say, don’t take no for an answer. Think about what you need to succeed and ask for it. If you use the support that’s out there, you may be surprised by what you achieve.

I graduated with a first this year and I need to thank some of the people who made that possible: my parents, my brother and everyone at LSBU who took a chance on me and worked so hard to support me throughout my course. Now I’m applying for jobs, and looking forward to getting out there and using what I’ve learned.

When I found out I’d won the prize, I actually couldn’t believe it! I was in my local library, where I volunteer, when I got the call and I had to find a private space to go and have a cry. It’s impossible to explain how much the prize means to me, but I’m incredibly grateful to John for setting it up and am honoured to be this year’s winner.

In honour of Disability History Month, Niveda has created a playlist on her YouTube channel which you can view here.

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