Studying for a degree is hard; winning an academic award is even harder; doing it all while being dyslexic sounds downright impossible!
Not so, proved 19-year-old agriculture degree student Kirstie Baird from Lanark who has not only excelled in an national academic competition but has also been named an official champion for those in the farming industry suffering from the condition.
While studying at the Scottish Rural College college at Ayr, Kirstie entered the UK-wide Animal Health Dairy Student Award competition.
Nominated for the competition by staff at the college, Kirstie completed the first round of the competition by submitting an essay outlining business advice on how a 300 dairy cow family unit can remain viable. This was judged by Kite Consulting and RABDF (Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers).
Attending the final recently at the Farmers Club in London as the only student from Scotland, Kirstie competed against six others.
Named the ‘2016 Dairy Challenge Debate’, the final involved a 15 minute presentation on ‘The UK dairy industry in 10 years time’, followed by Q&A with the judges and further discussion.
She emerged the runner-up in the nationwide contest to find the cream if Britain’s young farmers.
This achievement is all the more impressive when set against her background of dyslexia; she has been made a Young Ambassador for dyslexia awareness, especially within Scotland’s farming community.
She was only recognised as having dyslexia when she started college and has received help from SRUC to study and gain a higher qualification she might otherwise have found impossible.
Speaking at the award ceremony Kirstie said: “I was thrilled to get to the finals to represent Scotland, to be part of a very exciting award process and meet the other finalists.
“I hope the fact that I reached the finals of such a well recognised and tough competition inspires other students with dyslexia.
“SRUC have been very supportive and have enabled me to continue my studies and to understand more on dyslexia.
“I would encourage any one struggling with their studies and wondering about dyslexia to just come forward and ask.
“If we have any hope of helping future farmers and ridding the industry of the stigma attached to dyslexia, we need to act now and get support.”