GRADUATING with first-class honours was a real sister act for Natalie and Juliet Hodson.
The pair, from Jarrow, are celebrating after completing a leadership, management and organisation degree at Gateshead College.
The busy mums were the first in their family to go on to higher education, and combined their studies with the pressures of work and looking after their children.
Single mum Natalie, whose six-year-old son, Thomas, suffers from a rare bone disease, considered quitting the course last year.
But with the support of college staff, she was persuaded to stay on.
The 27-year-old is contracts administrator at Washington-based ground investigation specialists, Ian Farmer Associates.
She said: “I’m so glad I decided to complete the degree, which has really helped me in my career.
“It has provided me with vital skills, such as people management and problem solving, which have enabled me to progress and take on more responsibilities within the company.
“It has also given me the confidence to prioritise tasks and deal with staff issues more effectively.”
Before embarking on her degree, Natalie enrolled on a part-time NVQ business and administration level four programme at the college.
Realising her potential, tutors encouraged her to take a foundation degree in business management, before progressing to a full degree at the college, awarded by Teesside University.
Juliet, who now lives in South Shields, also completed the foundation degree in business management, which she says helped to sharpen her entrepreneurial instincts.
The performance and information support officer at South Tyneside Council is busy developing a new business venture, after coming up with a revolutionary bra design.
She said: “The degree has given me the confidence to take my business idea forward and develop it into a viable commercial venture.”
The 43-year-old also has a degree in criminology and sociology from Northumbria University.
Helen Richardson, learning innovation manager at Gateshead College, said: “I am incredibly proud of Natalie and Juliet, who have both shown other people just what can be achieved with hard work, ability and good time management.
“Our degree programmes equip students with valuable skills that help them to progress in their careers.
“These programmes also support aspiring entrepreneurs who, like Juliet, want to develop and grow their business.”