A student whose life changed when she broke her back in a cycling accident aged 16, confining her to a wheelchair, is to study medicine at university after being inspired by the care she received in hospital.
Jenny Unwin’s remarkable recovery has impressed everyone at Ripon Grammar School, who watched her overcome the accident, gain 11 top GCSEs and return to the school’s sixth form where today she celebrated gaining A*s in all her A Levels.
After three years of study, she achieved top grades in biology, chemistry and English literature and will read medicine at Leeds University.
Jenni, from Burton Leonard, was cycling home from her job in a garden centre when she was in collision with a car. She underwent surgery and five months of treatment and rehabilitation in hospital.
Ripon Grammar School invested in adaptations to the school buildings to ensure she could return and join the sixth form.
Jenny, 19, said: “Straightaway after the accident I knew I wanted to come back to school, I wanted to do A Levels and I wanted to get the career I thought I was capable of.
“I love this school. They have been amazing, so supportive, and I have really enjoyed sixth form. All my teachers were amazing but Mrs Griffiths, the sixth form coordinator, in particular was so supportive to me and my family. I needed to get three As and didn’t think at all that I’d done this well, so, yes, I am proud
“Before my accident I wanted to be a vet and did a lot of work experience. But afterwards I saw there were so many interesting opportunities in medicine and spending five months in hospital opened my eyes to the health service. I’d been healthy before and had never had cause to use it so was quite oblivious really.
“The care I received from the doctors and especially the nurses was really inspiring. It made me want to give something back. I love the personal contact and communication you can have with people but I don’t know yet what I will do after my degree.”
Leeds University have reserved a fully equipped studio in student accommodation for Jenny, who now has her own car and enjoys swimming in her spare time.
Reflecting on how the accident changed her life, she said: “The hardest part was watching my family have to go through what they went through. But without a doubt it’s the support of my family and friends that got me through it.”
Paying tribute to Jenny, retiring headmaster of Ripon Grammar School Martin Pearman said: “Jenny has been a remarkable student, utterly determined with a tremendously positive attitude. She has been supported by her wonderful family and friends and we, at school, tried to do whatever we could to ensure she had everything she needed to achieve to her very best.
“She thoroughly deserves this success. I am delighted for her and wish her all the very best for the future.”
Ripon Grammar School’s top student was Ben Wayne, whose five A* grades in biology, history, chemistry, maths and the extended project qualification have secured his place to read natural science at Durham University, while Jonathan Tanner achieved four A*s and will follow in both his parents’ footsteps to study mathematics and computer science at St John’s College, Oxford University.
Ben, 18, of Copgrove, said: “My results are way off what I was expecting. It’s been fantastic at Ripon Grammar School. Everyone knows each other, it’s a great community and it’s so easy to make friends, close friends who I will stay in touch with.
“Neither of my parents went to university so I suppose you could say the apple fell far from the tree in that respect. They are very proud.”
Josh Belward, who has been a regular performer in school productions and at Stagecoach, is bowing out of school life but will continue his acting career at prestigious Bird College having achieved A*s in maths and chemistry and a B physics.
Josh, 18, of Ripon, said: “At my auditions they asked what I was studying and looked shocked and surprised at my subjects, even wondering if I was in the right place. I’ve proven that I can achieve good academic results as a back-up, which will keep my dad happy, but there is nothing I would rather do than perform. I’ve always done it, it’s my passion and it gives you so many opportunities.”
Fellow actor Grace Branch is also pursuing theatre and performance at Surrey University after gaining A*s in classics and English and an A in art.
Grace, who moved from her native USA to North Yorkshire when she was two, said: “I’ve taken pretty much every opportunity I could to perform at school and in amateur groups, but I also wanted to follow the academic side as well and I’ll get to do both at Surrey.”
The A Level results, with 78.6 per cent being at A*-B, were the school’s second best ever and also the last for Mr Pearman, who retired this year after 12 years as headmaster.
Congratulating students at school, he added: “I have been with this cohort for seven years so I wanted to see them get their results and wish them well. I am very pleased their hard work and commitment has paid off.”