Student of the Year 2023-2024 Winners and Finalists
AQA Project Excellence Award
Jessica Burton - Nottingham College
Jess studied A Levels in Sociology, English Language and Art and Design alongside the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) at High Pavement Sixth Form, Nottingham College, showing great resilience and overcoming multiple barriers to produce a truly outstanding EPQ project. Her unique outlook on the world, together with her ability to solidify her passions into both words and art, have helped Jess not only in her EPQ project, but across her studies. She flourished at Nottingham College and has now taken up a place at the University of Cambridge on their Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Scholarship Foundation Degree. Everyone at Nottingham College wishes Jess the very best of luck for the AoC EPQ Student of the Year award.
Gloria Neligwa - Newcastle Under Lyme College
Gloria made the most of every opportunity presented to her during her time at Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group (NSCG). Studying A Levels in Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths, at Newcastle College, Gloria was also selected to take part in the Honours Programme – a prestigious additional pathway that requires significant extra commitment and effort. Gloria demonstrated profound dedication to her studies and embraced every super-curricular experience during her time on the programme and was a key member of the team that constituted in the first entry to the Cambridge Chemistry Race competition, becoming the captain of the team the following year.
Gloria also went on to win the regional finals of the Cambridge HE+ research competition for her work on oncolytic virus therapy and subsequently became a national finalist. Though it was her EPQ research that really blew us away.
Gloria’s EPQ project was a finely nuanced piece of work considering the impact of dehumanisation in medical research and practice which presented some surprising conclusions and very effectively embraced the historical development of medical ethics and contemporary issues around social justice and access to healthcare.
Gloria’s true vocation is without doubt medicine. Throughout her time at NSCG Gloria was proactive in developing her understanding of the profession through Keele’s MedPrep programme, Brighton & Sussex Medical School’s virtual work experience and also took part in a series of webinars with King’s College. We were thrilled when Gloria received a very well-deserved offer to study medicine at the University of Cambridge and we have no doubt an exciting career in the medical profession awaits.
Cameron Iyaman - Christ the King Sixth Form (Aquinas)
Cameron is an exceptional student, it is a real pleasure to have him as part of the CTK community. He excels in all of his A Levels (Maths, Chemistry and Biology) and has participated widely in the Super Curriculum. He frequently represents the Sixth Form as an Ambassador at events and enjoys rock climbing in his free time.
Cameron was tenacious with his investigation into his EPQ topic. He handled complex pieces of research well through critical analysis. He established clear, concise and detailed links between information. His dissertation was well structured and demonstrated a perceptive understanding of the topic of veganism. Overall, he showed a high level of self-awareness in evaluating his project aims.
Completing the EPQ has been really beneficial for Cameron in many ways, particularly in preparing for his dream of becoming a Vet. He has been focused and dedicated in his preparation to study Veterinary Medicine, by securing work experience at a local clinic, volunteering at a city farm, and attending two veterinary Summer Schools. He shows resilience and an admirable motivation and ambition to succeed. He is a kind-hearted individual, who works hard and we are incredibly proud that he is nominated for this award.
Adult Student of the Year sponsored by Association of Colleges
Madeleine Elleby - HSDC (Havant & South Downs College)
Madeleine Elleby is one of the most remarkable and resilient students that we have encountered at HSDC - Alton College and has been recommended by all staff that have taught her for this award. Madeleine overcame many obstacles in her time at Alton. Much like any other student, she left school with an exciting future at College and beyond ahead of her. Madeleine explains that her journey through college cannot be understood by looking at separate obstacles, nor events in her life, but rather holistically. Madeleine's time at Alton was underpinned by extensive periods of non attendance due to illness and fatigue, and so many hospital appointments that she ended up spending more time with nurses than teachers.
Despite these challenges, Madeleine made excellent educational progress, in addition, she engaged in a number of volunteering activities to help and inspire others. Madeleine has successfully progressed onto Higher Education to study medicine, her drive to help others is so incredibly impressive.
Madeleine's work ethic, positivity and drive are to be highly commended. Madeleine has been nominated as Adult Student of the Year, as she joined Alton as a young person but is most definitely leaving as an adult, who has experienced so much and achieved so much, despite all odds
Alex Kravchenko - Cambridge Regional College
Alex is a profoundly deaf refugee from Ukraine. He fled his home town, Kyiv, for the Netherlands, during the Russian invasion. Whilst he felt safe there, he wanted to better his English as he saw this as the key to a positive future. He travelled to England in 2022 and settled in Cambridge. Like many other refugees he started attending ESOL and maths classes, but he also had the added challenge of simultaneously learning British Sign Language (which is significantly different from Ukrainian) on top of the complexities of English. This means he has been studying two entirely new languages and using one to learn the other. Even when this has been incredibly difficult in class, he asks for help and remains determined to progress. Not only is he an inspiration to peers and teachers, he has chosen help others outside of college, and he has joined the ‘Empowering Deaf Society’ where he delivered a presentation on d/Deaf culture in Ukraine. He has overcome adversity just by arriving in the UK, but he has also used his circumstances to teach and to inspire others. Despite everything, he has an infectious, truly positive, attitude to life and study.
Young Student of the Year (16 to 18-years-old), sponsored by the Edge Foundation
Shelby McCloud - York College
Shelby is an amazing young person. She has engaged in local and national campaigning about the way people with Down Syndrome are viewed by society and across the college community. She has been an active advocate for Down Syndrome not being seen as a disability, but instead, alternative ability. She often comments she is the same as everyone else, it just takes her a little longer to get things done.
However, the biggest impact that Shelby has had on the wider community is her political campaigning as part of the ‘You Can’t Put Me Down’ campaign. This is where she, along with 13 other Down Syndrome campaigners, have presented to the Houses of Parliament to add representation into the debate about an expectant mothers’ right to a late pregnancy termination on the grounds of a baby having a high risk of Down Syndrome.
Shelby’s determination to live independently, follow her dreams in terms of what she wants to do with her life, and to make a difference to society is impressive and inspirational to people across the college and the wider community.
Alfie Caunt - Barnsley College
Alfie, an exemplary esports student, exemplifies dedication to inclusivity within the esports realm. Serving as an inclusion ambassador for AoC and partnering with South Yorkshire Sport, he promotes physical activity and digital upskilling others. Alfie tackles challenges various demographics face in gaming, creating more inclusive environments. He hosts a weekly podcast, shared on our local radio station, exploring esports, gaming's societal benefits, sustainability, and challenging common gaming stereotypes. Showcasing creativity and empathy, Alfie enhances game accessibility for those with disabilities, notably through virtual reality environments with HADO, recently featured on BBC's Children in Need. His community service shines in organising fundraising gaming events for noteworthy causes. Collaborating with schools and partners, Alfie bridges younger students with esports and physical activities, embodying commitment to community engagement within the gaming sector. His ongoing endeavours in the Esport qualification reflect his drive to expand his technical and leadership prowess, forecasting a bright esports industry future. Through these efforts, Alfie stands as a beacon of inclusivity, accessibility, and community involvement, inspiring many in and beyond the gaming community.
Emily Whittal - Herefordshire, Ludlow & North Shropshire College (HLNSC)
Emily is an exceptional student who has consistently demonstrated skills, competencies and commitment above expectations for someone of her age and experience. Following a successful L3 BTEC Health and Social Care work placement, Emily saved the life of a care service user when they went into cardiac arrest. Aged just 17 at the time, she responded in a calm, skilled and confident manner. Emily phoned the emergency services and commenced CPR. Before the paramedics arrived, she had fully resuscitated the service user. The ambulance crew were shocked to learn her age, given her competence and composure in dealing with the situation so effectively. They contacted the care company to commend Emily for her quick actions that saved the lady’s life.
Emily’s story has been an inspiration to fellow students, as well as future students with whom she has met. She has demonstrated that vocational education really can give young people the skills and confidence to make a real difference at such a young age, especially to those in need of care and support. Emily has progressed to an Adult Nursing Degree at Cardiff University and we are sure that she will go on to save many more lives in her career.
Higher Education Student of the Year, sponsored by Association of Colleges
Kamali Tajah Stevens - Weston College
Kam is a truly inspirational learner. His life started in a challenging place, experiencing hardships and difficulties all through his childhood and school life. Kam was even incarcerated at one stage.
Despite this, Kam still pursued higher education joining the BA in Film and Media Arts Production at University Centre Weston. Here he has demonstrated academic excellence, as reflected in consistently strong grades and winning the University Centre Weston Creative Student of the Year award.
Outside of university is where Kam really shines however, as he dedicates a significant amount of his time to speaking about penal reform and reintegration. He has been invited to speak at several prestigious platforms like the House of Lords and the EuroPris Conference, which illustrates the significance of his work. He also presented at the ‘Modernising Criminal Justice’ conference in London.
Kam is also involved in developing an app, called the Growth App, which is aimed at helping people to access services to address the underlying reasons for turning to crime. This app is being piloted in a prison in Oxford, where Kam will be involved in supporting prisoners and staff to use the app.
Lily-May Clayton - Boston College
Across five years Lily-May transformed from a student needing support every day, to one who organised a major art exhibition that involved dozens of learners from across Boston College’s Creative Arts provision and took over an imposing space in one of the largest parish churches in England.
Very intelligent and fiercely independent Lili-May has grown into a successful entrepreneur running her own graphic design business, having attained a First in her BA (Hons) Creative Arts degree while living with Morquio Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that effects bones, organs and mobility – not that you’d really know when teaching her as she barely acknowledges how it disrupts her life. If she couldn’t attend a session in person, she’d be there on Teams contributing as much as ever. Some days she was evidently in pain, but she never let it prevent her from giving her all.
A talented, proficient designer and a natural leader, Lili-May has earned the respect of her peers and lecturers, inspiring them with her commitment and positivity, which culminated in the exhibition in which she led her fellow degree students admirably and took the lead on communicating with external agencies (who would gladly have her do it again).
Emily Tinkler - Sunderland College (Education Partnership North East)
Emily has been an exceptional student and an integral member of our Sunderland College community. Joining as an FE student and then positively progressing and now graduating from her HND in Performance (Musical Theatre), with an extremely impressive Distinction grade profile.
As an HE student ambassador, she leaves an indelible mark on all who have taught her and been taught alongside. Emily has been recognised for her exceptional standards by professional performing arts companies, one of them being ‘Theatre Space NE’. In her first year of auditioning Emily secured a role in the ensemble and gained paid summer work. The following year she auditioned for the professional cast and was given the leading role as Juliet within their production of Romeo and Juliet.
Emily is a real credit and true example of what is fantastic about HE students studying within an FE setting. She has been able to inspire school pupils, FE and HE students, aiming to progress into higher education and professionally in the sector. Emily shows them the art of the possible, now progressing to London Metropolitan University to study for a Top Up Degree.
Apprentice of the Year, sponsored by NOCN Group
Christopher Ademola - Salford City College Group
On starting his Apprenticeship with Wigan Council, Christophers kind and caring nature immediately stood out and he was recognised by his managers due to the high quality of work and his ability to listen and learn. Christopher worked with a range of service users with differing needs and found innovative ways to engage with people that have genuinely made a difference to their lives.
Christophers personal journey hasn’t always been easy, relocating from Nigeria and helping to care for his younger brother, he has used his determination and channelled this into caring for others. His passion shines through in everything he does, he excels himself through his professional development at work and the way he has engaged with his studies. He thrives in learning and welcomes feedback to increase his knowledge, understanding and experience to deliver quality care. Christopher excels in his work and inspires others through his interventions as an outstanding apprentice.
"I love what I do as an apprentice. Being there for people and witnessing their happiness brings me immense joy. The apprenticeship gave me the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives, and that's one of the most rewarding aspects of this journey." Christopher
Kerra Taylor - BMet (Birmingham Metropolitan College)
Kerra started her 4-year apprenticeship in 2019 and now has worked incredibly hard and completed her level 3 qualification in food and drink maintenance to an extremely high-level, gaining distinction in most subjects and a distinction overall, even with the disruption of Covid. She is dedicated to her study, work, and college, and she travels from Cornwall to Birmingham for every block and is never late, never missed a lesson and promotes her company values with a high level of professionalism. She always has a smile on her face and is willing to help others in her cohort to achieve. She is ready to complete her EPA and is already working on the project and presentation for this.
In work she is a valued team member and someone who can be relied on to complete tasks to a safe high standard every time. She is a role model to new apprentices both at work and on her course and they go to her for advice and assistance where she is more than happy to support.
We are extremely proud of her achievements and been recognised for this award nomination.
Student Green Commitment Award, sponsored by Association of Colleges
Will Doswell - HSDC (Havant & South Downs College)
Will has been passionate about environmental sustainability ever since he joined HSDC. We first discovered this when Will delivered a great presentation to join the Student Union with a clear focus on actions the college needed to take to make progress against the Climate Action Roadmap to progress from emerging to established, with a focus on waste reduction, travel and rewilding.
In terms of Will’s impact, the first project he raised awareness regarding was the cycle to college scheme, he helped develop the project and made clear required actions from a student point of view. Will has also helped improve recycling at HSDC, promoting the use of recycling bins through enhanced signage and awareness. Finally, Will's contribution to the rewilding scheme at HSDC has been excellent, he has helped to identify green spaces for students and staff, this has been timely with the increase of mental health issues experienced post pandemic. Will continues to strive to improve the environment in his own time, regularly participating in beach cleans along the Portsmouth coast.
Will has progressed to the University of Portsmouth where he remains an active member of the Student Union, striving to achieve the best for students, retaining his commitment to environmental sustainability.
Laura Smith - Derby College Group (DCG)
When Laura applied for Introduction to Upcycling Course at Derby College Group, she was running a craft business. This fitted around her caring duties, but she thought she would benefit from joining a class, where she would meet people and collaborate. She chose upcycling as she was already interested in making items from scrap.
The course was an introduction to upcycling promoting experimentation in creating items from different scrap materials, sourced from a local charity.
Already having crafting skills, there was a degree of differentiation required to stretch and challenge Laura within the group through peer mentoring and extension activities. Laura’s infectious enthusiasm had a positive impact on the whole group. She was full of brilliant ideas and encouragement.
Even when her ideas didn’t quite go to plan, she has the ability to reflect and evaluate in order to rethink things and see where improvements can be made. She would create additional new and innovative items from the materials being used each week. She produced some lovely items. Derby College Group advertised for Community Learning teachers and Laura was encouraged by her teacher to apply. She is now on a teacher training programme and delivering some Introduction to Upcycling sessions.