The 2014 Student of the Year was Najibolah Rahimi, from Burton & South Derbyshire College.
Najib Rahimi came to live in the UK eight years ago as a refugee from Afghanistan without English abilities. After studying an engineering course and A Levels at Burton and South Derbyshire College, he is going to Queen Mary University to study Astrophysics. His aim is to work for organisations such as the European Space Agency and NASA.
In addition to his studies, Najib pursues his passion for science in his own time, and recently designed a ‘non-frictional’ dynamo, winning regional, national and international awards, as well as receiving investment interest from both Rolls Royce and Land Rover.
His interests are not only academic. He was also a Student Ambassador for the college, Vice President of the Students Union and mentor for both primary and secondary school students. He has also raised around £10,000 to provide electricity and running water in Afghanistan.
His college said: “Najib has shown that with hard work and dedication, outstanding achievements are possible. From learning English at school to becoming an award winning student, Najib is a true inspiration to others.
“Najib’s delight in and enthusiasm for science is obvious to all. Our belief is that not only will he become an outstanding scientist, but also an innovator and an entrepreneur.”
Second Place: Matt Holmes, Trafford College
26-year-old Matt is an amputee and also suffers with Cerebral Palsy. Despite his personal battles, Matt enrolled on a Supported Internship with Trafford College. As part of the programme, her went on three 10-week work placements, including at Trafford General Hospital, where he saved them £13,000 in medicines that had been lost in the system. His employers were so impressed with his performance and dedication that they fought to make his position permanent, and he has been successful in securing a permanent role as a Children, Families and Well Being Project Support Officer.
Returning to college as an adult was daunting, but once he had taken the decision to start his journey in education, he challenged himself to put his disabilities to one side and not let them hinder his progress.
His college said: “Matt is an incredible individual whose success, determination and passion for life should be shared with so many others who feel that a rewarding and successful working life may be out of their reach. It is difficult not to be inspired by his journey and the distance he has come in such a short space of time. Matt is extremely grateful for the opportunities he has been given in the short time since returning to learning, and he is very enthusiastic and positive about his future.“
Third Place: Sianagh Gallagher, Askham Bryan College
Since taking up climbing when she was 10-years-old, Sianagh has always had a passion for the sport. Over the years she has climbed in numerous national and international competitions, which has included winning a Gold medal at the World Paraclimbing Championships in Austria. Her achievements are made even more remarkable for Sianagh as she was born with no left arm, shoulder or collar bone.
Alongside her competitions, Sianagh works as a coach at a local climbing wall, and has voluntarily started sessions for people with disabilities.
Her college said: “Having a student such as Sianagh at college is an inspiration to other students, regardless of their course. Her achievements and enthusiasm are to be commended and we are very proud that the college is able to contribute to her continued progress.”