A pastor who escaped a life of gang violence and crime that culminated with him being held at gunpoint has graduated from university at the age of 52.

Stuart Patterson went from being offered a scholarship at top Glasgow school Hutchesons' Grammar to dropping out of education at 15 and sliding into a life of drugs, drink and violence.

Glasgow Times:

The dad-of-three, who now runs a community church in Easterhouse, spoke of his pride after being awarded a BA joint honour in Journalism, Creative Writing and Social Policy from Strathclyde University.

He admits it was a moment he feared he would never see - and hopes it inspires others trying to turn their life around or facing battles with addiction.

Glasgow Times:

He told the Glasgow Times: “I’m proof that anyone can turn themselves around if they are given a proper chance. I never imagined I’d be accepted into university let alone graduate with distinction.  

“Going back into education after all these years was a daunting prospect. My first day in class felt very strange. I kept having doubts and thinking ‘am I smart enough to be here' or ‘am I too old for this’.

"I had to push myself to keep going and get over my irrational fears. I realised quickly that I love academia and it’s been the best decision I’ve made. It’s never too late to do something you are passionate about.  I’ve learned over the years that your past doesn’t have to determine your future.”  

Glasgow Times:

As a teenager, summers for Stuart involved fighting on run-down football pitches, smoking cannabis and drinking cheap tonic wine to "fit in".  

He left school as soon as he could and got a job as a butcher. Soon though he was taking drugs before eventually finding himself in prison.

Glasgow Times:

On his release he found a new role on a building site - and a love of heroin that resulted in a gang holding a gun to his back and threatening to pull the trigger.  

The moment his demons almost cost him his life proved to be a wake-up call to Stuart, who at 27 knew something had to change before he found himself dead. 

Glasgow Times:

Stuart, who now lives in Paisley, said: “I was always book-smart and my parents were delighted when I was given a scholarship to private school.

“It soon became clear that the books would cost a lot of money that my family just didn’t have. I felt insecure and started to develop a lot of self-doubt thinking that I didn’t belong in a posh school.

“I remember hearing my parents arguing about the cost of books and I just decided to drop out. I spent my time instead riding the Subway or playing with toy cars in a field.  

“I started smoking cannabis and before long I was taking hard drugs. The gangs I would hang around with became like family to me. They knew I was smart and wasting myself and they would say ‘you’ve got to pull yourself together and do something with your life’."

Glasgow Times:

He added: "I knew deep down they were right, but I had no clue how to change things. I felt stuck in a spiral of addiction, but I needed help to quit.  

“The only thing I cared about was getting £10 to score drugs. Nothing else mattered to me. When my mum finally persuaded me to talk to a minister, I only agreed to keep her happy.

“We prayed together and something changed in me. For the first time in years, I wasn’t thinking about drugs, I wanted to get clean and get my life back.

“I found God and started to think about how I could help others rather than myself."  

Glasgow Times:

He believes that moment changed his life and now devotes his time to helping others struggling with addiction.

He added: “People think Easterhouse has a terrible reputation for poverty and crime. In fact, it’s one of the best places around. People go out of their way to help one another and it’s about time work was done to help it move away from the negative way it’s viewed. 

“I’m fiercely proud to be from Easterhouse. It is a place with its problems, but it also has an incredible sense of community. In its own way, it made me who I am and what I am today."