A ROMA university graduate is pleading with Glasgow residents to give young Roma people the chance to prove themselves.

Iliya Shterev says he is an example of what young people from the ethnic minority can achieve if they have the right support.

The 32-year-old was aided by parents who wanted the best for him - and now he hopes to help influence others to do the same.

Iliya, who graduated in 2012 from Glasgow Caledonian University, said: "My parents saw that not having the opportunity to be educated played a negative role in their life.

"They didn't have the skills to integrate in a better way with wider society.

"They saw education as a window of opportunity that would allow me not to go through the same struggles they had so they put all their effort into allowing me to have what they had not.

"I believe I can be a role model to other young Roma and show them what we can achieve."

Iliya, who is a lay preacher, was born in rural Bulgaria but when he was a child his parents decided to move to the city of Pazardhjik for a better life.

He says they were scorned by their own community for having aspirations and not welcomed by the wider community because of being Roma.

Due to high rents in the city, for the first two years the family lived in a chicken barn while his parents worked and saved money. Iliya's father converted part of the barns into rooms for the family.

Iliya said: "When my parents said to our neighbours, 'We are going to go to the city.' they said, 'You don't know anybody.'

"They were motivated by what they could achieve. People from our own village mocked us and laughed at us.

"They said, 'Is he going to become a professor or a big shot?'

"On the other hand, I faced discrimination because of the colour of my skin, I would be denied service in a coffee shop or they would tell me they were closed so they didn't have to serve me.

"It is embarrassing and degrading: I have experienced it first hand."

But Iliya believes education is the key to integration and ending discrimination.

His route through education took him to Maine, in America, and to Glasgow, where he has been shocked by the living conditions of the Roma in Govanhill.

He said: "I had the opportunity to know about Govanhill through some of my church work and, on seeing how the Roma were living in Govanhill, I realised that they have the same problems here - they are very much disenfranchised in terms of education and job creation.

"I have seen the same struggle in Europe as in Glasgow with the same issues.

"But it doesn't have to be this way. The problem partly is overcrowding where children do not have a positive after school environment to study.

"Also, the Roma who are parents need to start making sacrifices. They need to stop saying, 'What can the government give me?' and start saying, 'What can I do?'

"They have come already from an oppressed situation. We don't think about the future, we think, 'What can I eat today?'

"But we need to think about the future of our children."

Iliya is chairman of the Roma Society Scotland, a new charity that is looking to establish itself as a support organisation for Roma people.

He believes that the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council could - and should - do more to support Roma in Glasgow, particularly children.

Iliya "There might not be much we can do for the adult population but we can help the next generation with education.

"We can be different."