With two young children and a part-time job, Samantha Hey already has her hands full.

But the 29-year-old has also managed to study for a foundation degree – graduating with the highest overall mark in her class.

Samantha, who had her youngest child, 17-month-old Alice, during her time studying, has received a top prize from Horsforth-based Leeds Trinity University.

She was one of two students to receive a special prize in recognition of outstanding academic achievement.

An award also went to Josh Poklad, who received an MA in Victorian Studies Samantha, who also has a five-year-old son Oliver, received a Foundation Degree in Supporting Early Years.

She completed the course whilst working part-time as a nursery nurse, as well as looking after her children She said: “I was completely taken by surprise when I received notification that I had won the prize. It was, and still is, an amazing feeling and my family, friends and I are all very proud of my achievement.

“My family really deserve recognition for the role they have played in supporting me during the course of my studies as without their support I would not have been able to achieve this.”

Samantha is now studying for a BA Professional Practice: Early Childhood Studies at Leeds Trinity University. She hopes to continue onto a PGCE after completing this.

She added: “Studying for the foundation degree has been an emotional rollercoaster, but it just shows what you can achieve if you want to succeed.”

The university’s chancellor Gabby Logan gave a speech drawing on the examples set by Nelson Mandela.

She told graduates: “Mandela said ‘Education is the most powerful weapon that we can use to change the world’. You know that, because you’re changing your lives because of education and I’m sure that he would have added that you should never stop learning.

“This isn’t the end of your journey, it’s just the beginning, and I’m very proud as Chancellor to stand here, to look in the whites of your eyes and to see the hope and excitement about the futures you’ve got ahead.

“And you have got very exciting futures ahead.

“I hope that I’ll see you again doing great things in the future.”