AoC Student of the Year Awards 2016

The Student of the Year Awards highlight exceptional achievement and celebrates successes.

AoC Student of the Year 2016 finalists


2016 Winner

16 to 18-years-old

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Winner - Lotte Gleeson

Lotte Gleeson, 18 from Nelson and Colne College, is an outstanding student, whose ability to overcome her own personal hardships to excel both in the classroom and the community makes her truly remarkable.

Lotte is from a low-income single parent household in a deprived area of East Lancashire. Since attendingcollege, she has used her passion for academia and the world we live in as a driving force to overcome her personal circumstances, and has secured a place at Oxford University to read Physics after getting A*s and As in her A Levels.

As well as excelling academically, Lotte has thrown herself into college and community life. In the community, she has taken part in as much volunteering as she can including at a holiday club for a local special needs high school and with adults with learning difficulties.  She has also been involved in mentoring school pupils and college students as she feels it is important to give something back and help students who are struggling, as she knows what it is like to walk in their shoes and suffer with low confidence.

Lotte has gone above and beyond to help some of the most vulnerable members of her community, and this is something she intends on carrying on after college.She is an excellent role model to other students.

Runner-up - Edward Andrews

The achievements of Edward Andrews, 18 from Truro and Penwith College, are outstanding for a number of reasons.

This summer he obtained triple D* grades for the BTEC Extended Diploma in Care, gaining a place a Sussex University. What makes this more impressive is that this was done at a time when he was undergoing significant educational, social and health challenges through trans-gendering from female to male and the additional pressure this entailed. In addition, Ed worked hard with college support staff to overcome his dyslexia and demonstrated relentless determination in his quest to be the first member of his family to attend university.

Ed became increasingly aware of perceptions and stigma from both his peers and outside of the college during his period of trans-gendering. For most students this additional stress would have negatively impinged on academic progress.  Ed confronted this head on and produced a video and leaflets for a dysphoria health education campaign. This not only contributed to a better understanding of diversity and inclusion by students on the same course but also by the wider college community.

Outside of the college Ed extended his quest to increase understanding by campaigns through social media and engagement with the city’s LGBT group. Throughout this difficult time Ed has continued to undertake voluntary work by teaching martial arts to primary aged children on a weekly basis.

He has confronted prejudice head on, overcame it through perseverance, frank and open conversations even producing resources for other students to aid their understanding.

Runner-up - Jack Whitmore

Jack Whitmore, 18 from City College Brighton and Hove, has shown outstanding commitment to his academic studies, sporting life and voluntary work. 

After receiving 12 GCSEs A*-C, he completed a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport at the college with a triple distinction.  He has now secured a place at Brighton University to study Physical Education – the first in his family to go to university.

Jack’s love of sport and will to succeed has been further evidenced by the array of achievements he’s notched up at the age of just 18 including as a table tennis champion and captaining three local football teams.  He has also found time to achieve football coaching and refereeing qualifcations.

Jack is also committed to supporting and mentoring other young people. He referees local youth football team matches, and volunteers with primary school children, receiving Community Sports Leader Award 2015 and Higher Sports Leader Award 2016 qualifications.He has also helped organise a sports day for special needs children around Brightonand worked with Withdean Sports Complex on a business idea on how to get more old elderly people active.

Jack is inspirational to other young people because his approach to education, sport and supporting his local community is marked by commitment, determination and a belief in team work.

19-years-old and over

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Winner - Michal Kolanski

As a 13 year old boy in Poland, Michal Kolanski, 21 from Craven College, found himself living alone and fending for himself after the traumatic divorce of his parents. 

His mother went to live in Germany and his father came to England.  Through self-determination, he completed his secondary studies in Poland. At the age of 16 he decided to follow his father to England, although at that point he did not speak English. He completed a six month ESOL course at a local college before enrolling on a Fresh Start course at Craven College, at the end of which he achieved four GCSEs including a B in maths. Michal recognised that his ultimate aim was to attend university with a view to becoming a police officer in order to make a difference and help people and completed the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Public Services.

Michal has worked voluntarily with students with learning difficulties whilst studying at college by instructing them in basic martial arts. Outside of college, Michal has volunteered to help the homeless, involving serving meals on a monthly basis and staying overnight as part of a team. As some of the homeless were Slovaks, he helped to translate and was able to mediate to ease the occasional tensions that arose. Applying and being accepted as a Community Volunteer in the West Yorkshire Police Force was a defining moment in Michal’s life. Since then he has worked with Police Community Support Officers on community visits and also took on a voluntary role at Bradford Police Museum.

He not only inspires others at college, but in the wider community too.

Runner-up - Louis Rolfe

Louis Rolfe, 19 from Cambridge Regional College, represented Team GB at the Paralympics in Rio in 2016, winning an individual bronze medal and a team gold medal. 

Louis has cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus after being born 10 weeks premature. He is a keen cyclist and after studying business for a year moved to the sport courses at the college. In order to achieve his goal of being Paralympic cyclist as well as having a good education to fall back on Louis has had to juggle coursework and training, often needing time off college to visit training centres in Manchester or to compete around the world in various events.

Louis started to achieve some excellent results in his competitions whilst still keeping to deadlines in order to pass his assignments.  At the 2016 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Montichiari, Italy, Louis was drafted into the team sprint line-up after team mate Kadeena Cox was reclassified and unable to ride. Riding alongside Jon Allan Butterworth and Jody Cundy, Rolfe not only won his first world title but also helped set a new world record of 49.268. 

This summer he represented Team GB at the Paralympics in Rio, winning an individual bronze medal and a team gold medal.  As a result of his success, the college has since renamed the sports centre in his honour.
Louis is a role model to both his peers and other learners around the college. He is hard working and a real picture of strength to others who may be struggling. He meets challenges head on and doesn’t let his disabilities hold him back.

Runner-up - Jessica Sibthorpe

Jessica Sibthorpe, 21 from Farnborough College of Technology, overcame Acute Myeloid Leukaemia to complete her studies.

Jessica began studying on the BSc (Hons) Media Production in 2013. From day one she was a committed student working hard on her coursework as well as integrating well with her peers working on as many projects as possible.Having completed an in-house work experience placement at the Lakeside Darts, she continued working with the production company involved IMG. After her first day working at the Wimbledon Tennis, she came home unusually exhausted. Blood tests diagnosed her with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. As Jessica was approaching her final year on the degree and was doing so well, she was concerned about not being able to graduate with her friends. She wanted to stay positive and focused so we agreed to take one day at a time and for her to continue with her studies from her hospital bed when she physically could. She continued to study using the VLE and her classmates recorded lectures and brought her in hand outs and production equipment.

During her final year she completed a media project, which was presented during the annual college fashion show, where she also raised £300 for Teenage Cancer Trust. With all that in mind and despite missing the first semester of her final year, she achieved a First Class Honours Degree overall.

Jessica is an inspiration to all who meet her. She is now beginning the next chapter in her life securing a job beating over 500 applicants with IMG Media working in Television production.


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Winner - Zac Challinor

In the past 18 months Zac Challinor, 28 from Salford City College, has dramatically changed his personal and professional circumstances.

Zac felt that education or employment were not for him. His situation led to a spiral downwards, he fell in with ‘wrong crowds’ and as a result spent three years in prison for involvement in the Salford riots in 2011. After working hard on rehabilitation in prison, Zac’s determination to improve his life led to his story being turned into a short film by a local media company. This, in turn, led to a chance meeting with the Salford Academy Trust, and apprenticeship employment.

His Advanced Apprenticeship in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools has allowed him to support challenging, disengaged students as a Teaching Assistant. Zac’s role has grown and developed organically due to the intuitive observations he made as to what would benefit the students he supports. This initiative led to him making links with the Manchester United Foundation who are supporting him in his role and enabling him to roll out the initiative across local primary schools. He has found ways to reach some of the most disengaged and disadvantaged students. The impact he has made on their learning - and therefore their life chances - cannot be underestimated.

Zac made a choice and decided to make a change for the better. He has studied hard and embraced every opportunity to turn his life around. He is a true inspiration.

Runner-up - Cheryl Govey

Cheryl Govey, 47 from City College Brighton and Hove, has shown remarkable dedication and commitment to achieve success as an apprentice in a male dominated environment.

Cheryl faced a number of rejections when she set out to find work in carpentry and construction. She has since started an apprenticeship in construction building with Mears, having left school 30 years ago with no qualifications.

Cheryl has had to overcome personal challenges prior to and during her apprenticeship. As a result of this not only does she demonstrate her determination and pride on a daily basis, she is also overcoming social attitudes to flourish as a confident and skilled tradesperson.

One of the major benefits Cheryl has is her ability to adapt to situations. The nature of Mears’ business (social housing repairs) means staff will frequently come into contact with people with complex lives. Cheryl is not phased by this and relates to people in a way most individuals would struggle to. She simply cares about people who are often marginalised and neglected in the community.

Cheryl has a thirst for learning which is complicated by dyslexia but this has not hindered her progress. She has responded to guidance brilliantly and has set a great example for women in the maintenance/construction industry and as a mature apprentice.

Runner-up - Bronwyn Tyson

Bronwyn Tyson, 22 from Yeovil College, has become an ambassador for the college and the sector. 

While completing her Advanced Apprenticeship in Electrical and Electronic Engineering she has also show unprecedented dedication and commitment to promoting women in science and engineering.  This was highlighted when she was a speaker at the 2016 Women in Science and Engineering Conference awards (WISE) and became a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Ambassador. She also took part in a college open day for women in engineering where she offered inspiration and guidance for those considering pursuing a career within engineering.

She is also heavily involved in the promotion of engineering to the younger generation where she and her team undertake visits to locals schools where she engages youngsters participation in engineering activities ranging from how to solder to building helicopters from newspaper.

Bronwyn was told when undertaking her A Levels that she would never achieve an engineering career. She has gone on to prove all of her doubters wrong and is a real inspiration.

Highly commended

Alongside the finalists, each category had three highly commended recipients

16 to 18-years-old

Jodie Beck

Jodie Beck, 18 from Longley Park Sixth Form College, studied A Levels in History, Government and Politics and a Subsidiary Diploma in Applied Law, completing her studies in summer 2016.

Alongside her main programme Jodie also studied the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), exploring Thatchers’ legacy and subsequent impact on British identity. As part of her research she contacted a number of MPs to interview, including Justine Greening MP, the Secretary of State for Education. She was so impressed with Jodie that she offered her an internship over the summer.

Jodie also suffers from a medical condition that causes extreme fatigue and painful lumps on her skin. This could have had an impact on her studies but Jodie was determined to succeed and get the absolute most out of her time at College. Jodie achieved A grades in her A Levels and Distinction* in Applied Law. She also achieved A* in her EPQ, gaining the highest grade awarded to any student across the country.

Jodie was an integral part of the Student Council; she was also a Student Governor on the College’s board of Governors and a Student Ambassador.

Owen Llewellyn

A culinary star in the making, Owen Llewellyn, 18 from City College Plymouth, is a truly exceptional front-of-house manager.

Whilst at City College studying for a Level 3 Diploma in Food and Beverage Service Supervision, Owen was always the first to volunteer his services and selflessly gave up his own time to represent the college - he even gave up paid employment to focus solely on college events. Owen’s commitment to the hospitality and catering industry has paid off as he was offered a much sought after post working with celebrity chef, Rick Stein, at his flagship Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. The staff were so impressed with Owen that they agreed to provide him with accommodation so he could relocate from Plymouth.

Always the first to volunteer for additional events and functions - Owen was the most valuable student in the hospitality and catering academy during the 2015/16 academic year. He gained an impressive amount of experience whilst studying and serving in the College’s training restaurant, PL1, and whilst representing the college at external events and working with the college’s Marketing team.

Brittany Peacock

Brittany Peacock, 18 from Trafford College, is a triple distinction Business and Enterprise student, Career Ready graduate, charity ambassador and Student Governor.

She is on her way to becoming one of Greater Manchester’s newest and most talented young entrepreneurs. Representing the only further education college at this year’s Start-Up Company of the Year awards, Brittany led a team to victory and went head to head with some of the North West’s most talented higher education students to be crowned North West Student of the Year 2016. Over the last two years, Brittany has managed her main enterprise programme, a Career Ready Programme, a part-time job, home commitments, charity work and she has been elected college student governor.

On top of winning awards, Brittany also finds time to give her time to another great passion in her life- charity. Through the Young Enterprise Start Up Programme, she arranged a networking event to raise awareness of a student company she decided to establish with the help of her fellow students. The Smiling Gift Company is a social enterprise with a social mission to improve the lives of children in living in poverty across Greater Manchester.

19-years-old and over

Joshua Bopu

You couldn’t wish to meet a more positive, up-beat individual than Joshua Bopu, 20 from Barking and Dagenham College.  

Joshua arrived in the UK age 5, speaking no English. Socially anxious and with Dyslexia which went undiagnosed until he was in his late teens and studying at Barking & Dagenham College. A talented footballer, Joshua had a trial with Manchester City but on the day he was due to secure a professional contract he suffered a shoulder injury. Angry with the world, he found solace as a member of a gang and when violence reared its head he received an eight month jail term under joint enterprise rules.

These challenges have given Joshua the impetus to change his life, and through his personal philosophy of setting small achievable goals every day, he has become a resilient and positive adult who is keen to set an example for others, especially his younger brother who has a diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome and Autism.

By July 2016 Joshua had completed his BTEC Extended Diploma in Sports at Level 3, is juggling a variety of jobs alongside a burgeoning modelling career, and has plans to set up a charity with his sister to help people with a similar diagnosis to his brother.

In 2014, Joshua was awarded a London Leadership & Peace Turnaround Award, presented at City Hall by the London Mayor.

Sarah Fenwick

At sixteen Sarah Fenwick, 34 from New College Swinson, left school with no qualifications. Now, after five years with New College, she’s set to take University of Birmingham by storm.

When Sarah signed up for Level 1 English back in 2011 she never thought she’d be enrolling for university this September. Sarah went on to study English and maths at GCSE before focusing on Health and Social Care. She has since graduated with a Distinction in her Higher National Diploma.

Sarah has balanced her studies with raising a family, part-time employment as well as volunteering as an Appropriate Adult for Swindon Borough council’s Youth Offending Team. She has worked in a pharmacy three days a week throughout her studies and as her academic qualifications progressed, this enabled her to attend courses at work too allowing her to carry out additional tasks and developing her career further.

Zarah Osarobo

A week after Zarah Osarobo, 25 from Hackney Community College was born, the doctors told her parents that she had cerebral palsy and that she would never be able to walk, talk or amount to anything.

Zarah taught herself to walk and talk and has determinedly studied for her level one qualifications alongside living independently and becoming an ambassador for Mencap, meeting MPs, doing radio broadcasts and blogging about life with learning disabilities.

When Zarah started college she didn’t know how to read or write and was below entry level. She has studied hard and has pushed herself to get where she is now. For many people gaining GCSE qualifications in English and maths is not something we look at as a challenge and almost take for granted. For Zarah, it is her dream to achieve these and she knows she is going to have to push herself really hard to get there but is determined to make it happen.


Gagandeep Kaur

Gagandeep Kaur, 20 from West Thames College, was born in India and was three years old when her parents found out that she was deaf.

Attending school in India she felt isolated and, not being able to communicate with teachers or friends, she was treated as different. Gagandeep came to England at the age of seven when her life changed. The hospital diagnosed she was profoundly deaf in one ear and had partial hearing in the other. She learnt British Sign Language (BSL) and with a hearing aid could hear speech even though distorted. From leaving school Gagandeep wanted to work with children and chose West Thames College as it had the best atmosphere and an Inclusion Department which has met her needs and been so supportive during her time at college.

Gagandeep completed a Level 1 and Level 2 Child Care Course and concentrated on her GCSE so she could move up to an apprenticeship in early years and childcare. Despite setbacks and disappointments along the way Gagandeep has remained entirely focussed on her ambitions and is to be congratulated on going as far as she has to achieving what she has to date.

Sarah Malkin

Sarah Malkin, 25 from City of Wolverhampton College, is an advanced engineering apprentice at Babcock.

Despite working in a very male dominated environment, Sarah has excelled and made a name for herself as a hardworking and outstanding individual. Because Sarah wanted to learn to weld to workshop standards she paid for herself to achieve an additional NVQ Level 3 in Welding alongside her apprenticeship. She also put in the extra work to complete her ONC qualification early, so that she complete her HNC during the last year of her apprenticeship. Sarah won the Sir Henry Royce Competition in 2015, an MoD competition for engineering excellence.

She is the higher education class representative and is also on the college’s HE council, representing the needs and interests of students. During the apprenticeship Sarah also assisted with the work experience programme, mentoring students in the manufacture of a model vintage car.

Vikesh Patel

Vikesh Patel, 20 from Abingdon & Witney College, is a focused and motivated individual who is undertaking an Advanced Apprenticeship in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

His drive and innovation has had a positive impact on his company’s business. Vikesh produced an official control document for Triple+ resistor data sheet, which the company’s quality department have now incorporated into their published procedures. Since adopting this procedure, Crowcon have noted a significant reduction in product rejection rates. This control document is prominently displayed at Crowcon’s Head Office.

He does not hesitate to offer help and support to other less able students. He has excellent communication skills and his confidence has noticeably increased as he’s made the transition from full-time college to working for a leading STEM employer in the region.