"The New Beginnings course gave me the confidence to go forward. The team made it easy because they treated everyone the same, everyone was included, everyone was encouraged.
"Once I got through this stage it was my pathway to go on to do the degree. I thought if I can do this my grandchildren can do this. I wanted to prove to them that wherever you're from, whatever your age, anything is possible."
Now, aged 75, Bernadette has achieved her ambition. In September, she graduated with a BA in Fashion Design from UEL, which she says with a Cheshire Cat-like grin was one of the proudest days of her life.
And more recently she launched her own business, running weekly workshops and courses teaching beginners and improvers in her local Stepney community how to sew and make clothes.
"My degree has given me the confidence to run these courses. Sewing and design is something I've been doing for 50-odd years but because I was self-taught I didn't push myself. I didn’t feel like I was legitimate.
"Now I've actually had people who have never sewn, never used a sewing machine, never done anything like it and by the end of the six weeks' course they have made a garment. I love to see their faces. It makes me so proud for them – and for me."
There's no stopping Bernadette now. The confidence she has gained from her degree is immense. She is on a mission to tell the world that you're never too old to try anything new.
"If you're happy doing what you're doing then that's fine. But if you don't feel you're being fulfilled doing the job you're doing then the easiest way to go and change it, and your life, is through learning.
"Go back to the beginning and take the opportunity to start again. You can do it any age. There is nothing to stop you. If you've got the gumption to get up and do it - then do it!"
Images by Festival of Learning.