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AoC Student of the Year winners announced

15 November 2023

SOTY Winners

Inspirational college students who have achieved despite challenging odds have been recognised at the annual Association of Colleges Students of the Year Awards.

The awards, announced at AoC Annual Conference, highlight outstanding individuals and showcase their achievements, talents and successes. Many of the winners have overcome adversity to make exceptional progress at college, and all go above and beyond to give back and positively impact their college and community.

The standard of entry was extremely high this year, and in some categories, the judges selected more than one runner-up. You can find out more about the finalists on the AoC Awards website.

Adult Student of the Year (19+) sponsored by AoC

Winner: Madeleine Elleby, HSDC Alton College

HSDC said: “Madeleine 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 was 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.”

Runner-up: Alex Kravchenko, Cambridge Regional College

Higher Education Student of the Year sponsored by Advance HE

Winner: Kamali Tajah Stevens, Weston College

Weston College said: “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.”

Runner-up: Lily-May Clayton, Boston College

Runner-up: Emily Tinkler, Sunderland College (Education Partnership North East)

Student Green Commitment sponsored by Inenco

Winner: Will Doswell, Havant  &  South Downs College (HSDC)

HSDC said: “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.”

Runner-up: Laura Smith, Derby College Group (DCG)

Apprentice of the Year sponsored by NOCN Group

Winner: Christopher Ademola, Salford City College Group

Salford City College Group said: “Christopher 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, but he has used his determination and channelled this into caring for others. His passion shines through in everything he does, and 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.

Runner-up: Kerra Taylor, Birmingham Metropolitan College (BMet)

Young Student of the Year (16 to 18 years old) sponsored by Edge Foundation

Winner: Shelby McCloud, York College

York College said: “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.”

Runner-up: Alfie Caunt, Barnsley College

Runner-up: Emily Whittal, Herefordshire, Ludlow & North Shropshire College (HLNSC)

AQA Project Excellence Award sponsored by AQA

Winner: Jessica Burton, Nottingham College

Nottingham College said: “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.”

Runner-up: Cameron Iyaman, Christ the King Sixth Form (Aquinas)

Runner-up: Gloria Neligwa, Newcastle Under Lyme College