Not everyone has the courage or confidence to upgrade their education goals from a hairdressing apprenticeship to gaining entry into the most difficult university courses.

Griffith University psychology alumni Jill Guljas has done just that.

Jill’s mother calls her the “first link in a golden chain” because she was the first in her family to attend university and inspired her siblings to aim high.

Jill is now working towards a career in medicine, her sister is studying psychology at Griffith and another sister is considering a nursing career.

The future is bright for Jill and her family but her journey was far from easy. Jill was pregnant with her first child in the final year of high school and facing life as a single mum. Education was always in the back of Jill’s mind, but she had little confidence in her ability to attend university. At her lowest point, she lived in a homeless shelter with her five year old daughter and another baby on the way.

“My car broke down, I had no money and someone else was feeding us – I even told my daughter we were at a holiday resort to make her feel better about our situation,” Jill says.

“I knew then that higher education was the answer and my hairdressing apprenticeship wasn’t going to be enough.”

“I wasn’t the smartest girl in my class at school. You wouldn’t have picked me as the most likely to succeed academically so when I finally told a friend that I wanted to apply for university, I was so embarrassed I had to close my eyes to say it,” Jill says.

“I grew up with the idea that I wouldn’t be university material so I expected her to say I wasn’t smart enough for uni but her response was so encouraging.

“I didn’t tell anyone when I submitted my application to Griffith, but the day I was accepted was the most amazing day of my life.”

As a single mum on a limited budget, Jill says the support services at Griffith provided a lifeline.

“Some of my lecturers put me onto GUMURRII and I was able to meet other students like me, some of them mums too.

“My years at Griffith taught me that success isn’t just about being smart – it’s how much you apply yourself and 90 per cent hard work.”