Student of the Year Awards 2017

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

The winner for each category was announced at AoC's Annual Conference dinner in Birmingham on 14 November 2017.  A reception was also held in the House of Commons on 17 January 2018,  kindly hosted by Peter Kyle MP , Chair of APPG for the FE & Lifelong Learning.  


Young Student of the Year Award

sponsored by 

Winner - Sophie Ainsworth

Nelson and Colne College

Sophie Ainsworth, from Nelson and Colne College, is a remarkable talent who despite living with a chronic and complex autoimmune condition has excelled in her studies.

For the last three years Sophie has been living with Lupus, which causes a variety of problems including joint pain, breathing difficulties and extreme fatigue. Despite all this in her GCSE year, Sophie still achieved 8 A* grades, 3 As and a B which is a real testament to her character.

Sophie has balanced her illness and studies with the creation of a not for profit organisation called RAiISE (Raising Awareness of Invisible Illness in Schools and Education) to push for improvements in the way young people with invisible illnesses are supported in education. Sophie has sourced all the funding for RAiISE so far and has led the organisation and delivery of workshops with children and young people all suffering with various illnesses, their families, charity representatives and healthcare professionals to find out what would be useful to make illness during education easier to deal with in the future.

Sophie is an outstanding individual who is predicted to achieve straight A* grades in her A Levels in English Literature, Film Studies and History and has an offer to study English Literature at the University of Durham. She has a real desire to succeed in life and has her heart set on a career as a Film Director.

Runner-up - Mason Cherritt

Weston College

Mason Cherritt, from Weston College, is a remarkable young man with SEND, an inspiration and role model to his peers and has worked tirelessly to overcome his significant learning barriers.

For the first time Mason has been able to engage and achieve in education which is meaningful to him.  This is particularly admiral given that he did not attend school between the ages of 9 and 14 years.  When he attended school he was on the brink of being excluded and spent all his time when in school within a secure setting.   Mason has displayed extensive determination and resilience to achieve his aspirations, now progressing onto a full time mainstream College course a dream he never believed possible.

During his time at the College, Mason has made an outstanding contribution through his role as student transition ambassador, helping students with significant barriers to learning. Mason has also represented the College in several AOC football tournaments with the team recently winning the sports academy team of the year.

Mason is always willing to support students, particularly those with SEND, he also supports students with more complex needs within sessions as part of his work experience and ongoing personal targets.   He recognises the difference that support can make in a person’s life and shows a passion to support and help not only learners but people within the community. 

Mason is an inspirational student who has worked relentlessly to succeed in education.

Runner-up - Kirsty Newman

Abingdon and Witney College

Kirsty Newman, from Abingdon and Witney College, is an outstanding student, whose determination, resilience and ability to overcome her own personal hardships to excel in the classroom and the community make her truly remarkable.

From the age of thirteen, Kirsty’s learner journey has been a challenge. At secondary school, she became her mum’s carer and only attended school twice weekly. During year 11, she had to take ‘early study leave’ to care for her mum. Throughout this time, Kirsty taught herself from textbooks, videos, internet research and work sent by teachers. Remarkably, Kirsty achieved 1A, 6B’s and 3C’s in her GCSEs.

Throughout her studies, and despite her significant caring responsibilities, Kirsty has achieved a highly commended A* grade in her CACHE Level 3 Early Years qualification. 

As well as excelling in her studies, Kirsty has contributed to college life, by being a Student Mentor at college open days, mentoring first year students and taking on the role of class rep. She has also taken an active role in all fundraising projects e.g. Children in Need raising £311.

Kirsty has an offer of an unconditional place at Oxford Brookes University to achieve her long-term aim of becoming a Primary School Teacher.  She has chosen OBU to continue her studies in order to remain her mother’s carer throughout her university life.

Kirsty’s kind nature and faultless work ethic stand not only as an example to other students, but to staff, visitors and the world at large.


Adult Student of the Year

Sponsored by

Winner - Rachelle Wabissa

Bath College

Rachelle Wabissa, from Bath College, is a student who has shown outstanding commitment to her studies.

Rachelle enrolled on the Access to Higher Education course with a goal to gain a place at university to study for a social work degree. She has attended college for three days a week and worked as a care assistant for four days (since she had no other form of income). In 2016, she was diagnosed with Tuberculosis (TB) and whilst juggling her studies, family commitments and managing her illness she has helped to pioneer a new treatment enabling individuals to be treated at home. She is writing a report evaluating the effectiveness of this treatment.

As well as completing course work for the challenging Access to HE course, Rachelle has provided her family with considerable support. Her mother is very ill and must attend many hospital appointments and Rachelle has been required to accompany her to these. In addition, her siblings need support as they are still at school and Rachelle is passionate about ensuring they fulfill their potential. The diagnosis of TB came as a major blow, but Rachelle remained upbeat and attended college as much as she could all through her treatment, ensuring all assignments were completed to the best of her ability.

Rachelle has gained a place at the University of Bath to study for a degree in Social Work and Applied Social Studies. This is a highly competitive course at one of the top universities in the country and she was given a place on the course following an exhausting interview process. Rachelle

Rachelle's commitment and determination to achieve her goals makes her an inspiration to her family and her community. 


Runner-up - Joyce Abumujor

Chesterfield College

Joyce Abumujor, from Chesterfield College, has shown remarkable dedication and commitment to achieve success.

Joyce has had many personal difficulties to overcome in her life, including fleeing her own country in search of safety and a better life.

Joyce returned to college as she approaches her 50s to study plumbing and bricklaying, her motivation is so that she can take the skills she is learning back to her Nigerian roots to give vulnerable young girls the opportunities she never had to learn a trade. She plans to work with existing academies in Nigeria and across Africa to teach girls construction skills enabling them to build a career and a brighter future.

Joyce naturally inspires others because of her determination to achieve her goals as well as all the practical things she does to support others to improve their lives through accessing education.

Joyce is an active member of the Chesterfield College Women in Construction group, a student representative for the construction department on the college’s student council and she took part in Student Parliament to ensure that the voice of her fellow students could be heard.

She is a highly valued ambassador for the college who not only supports her fellow students emotionally and academically, she is also keen to get involved to reach out to potential students of all ages about the benefits of studying construction and engineering at college.

Runner-up - Jared Carpenter

City College Norwich

Jared Carpenter, from City College Norwich, has had an incredible five year journey that has seen him completely transform every aspect of his life through huge amounts of hard work and sheer determination.

Jared arrived at City College Norwich with severe social anxiety and very few formal qualifications.  His anxiety was so severe that he couldn’t walk around campus or go into classrooms on his own. With the support of college staff, Jared has worked his way through a variety of study programmes including the college’s Phoenix Purple course which is designed to help students with Autistic Spectrum Disorders to progress on to further study.  Since enrolling Jared discovered his talent and passion for mathematics and has been motivated to achieve the highest possible grades. In his first year of A Level study, he achieved only 2 UMS marks off of 100% for the Mathematics AS Level! Jared went on to continue his fantastic performance by achieving 100% in 2 Mathematics modules. He now has a total of 2 AS & 1 A2 Levels achieving A* and A grades across the board.

Jared has contributed back to college life by conducting training sessions to raise awareness of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and help staff meet the needs of ASD students in classes. Jared has also taken part in a peer mentoring programme and taken on the responsibility of Further Education Student Governor on the college’s corporation board.

Jared has truly made the most of every opportunity that has been given to him and has proven how applying a positive attitude to education can pave the way to a bright and successful future.


Apprentice of the Year

Sponsored by

Winner - Danielle Thomas

City College Southampton

Danielle Thomas, from City College Southampton, is an outstanding ambassador for women working as a boat building apprentice in the heavily male-dominant marine industry.

Being the only female in her class and in the workplace has not deterred her from striving to be the best in all that she works towards. Although she is considerably outnumbered, in her own words she is never ‘outgunned’. 

Throughout her studies, Danielle has made a huge contribution to the college and various other organisations including the communities of Southampton and Portsmouth.  She has recently contributed a significant amount of time, outside of her apprenticeship, to support a community project which involved fully refurbishing a damaged replica medieval cargo ship – an iconic feature in the city of Southampton.

In addition, Danielle has also volunteered her time to promote learning and working in the marine sector at various City College open events, providing inspiration to other young women.

Danielle works over and above the requirements of her course and is an inspiration to other students, continuously supporting and helping her colleagues.

Runner-up - George Autie

The Cornwall Group

George Autie, from the Cornwall College Group, is an apprentice who through incredible amount so hard work and dedication to his employer has started to pave out a bright future.

George has completed his 2nd year of his Electrical apprenticeship and is excelling at Cornwall College.  George is an apprentice for engineering design and infrastructure company Furgo.  His time at the company highlights why apprenticeships should be given the highest of priorities in training our future workforce.

George has taken on a considerable amount of responsibility over and above his role at the company. His incredible work ethic and drive to continually learn and progress has made him a real asset to the company and opened up futher opportunities.  George has also looked after summer work experience placements from local schools, giving them an opportunity to learn from him and trying to inspire them into the industry.

George is talented individual who has set a very high standard for a second year apprentice, demonstrating the value of apprenticeships and makes a perfect role model for the sector.

Runner-up - Josh Barber

Newcastle-under-Lyme College

Josh Barber, from Newcastle-under-Lyme College, is a university-level student at is studying for a Foundation degree (Fd) in Electrical and Electronic Technology.

Josh was an Advanced Apprentice and completed his work placement at the pioneering technology leader, ABB, based in Stone, Staffordshire. In November 2016, Josh was chosen as Apprentice of the Year from a shortlist of three for his outstanding work on a client’s wind farm grid connection project. His cost-saving redesign for a supplies pillar-marshalling kiosk layout to improve safety, efficiency and reduce installation errors won approval from senior engineers, his supervisors and ABB’s customers, and has now been adopted by the company as standard.

Josh has not only excelled in his main duties but has also given back to the company through various voluntary roles.  Josh has helped out with ABB’s Schools Support Programme, co-ordinates industry dates and gets involved in events and career days, and has given presentations on ABB’s work to scholars, students, members of the local community and MP’s. 

Josh is a committed, dedicated and enthusiastic apprentice who has worked hard over the past few years of studying in order to pursue his career goals.  He is a great example to the sector showing you can work for a leader in your sector while also reaping the rewards of earning and learning at the same time.


Highly commended

Alongside the finalists, each category had two highly commended recipients


Young Student of the Year

Highly Commended - Alanna Goddard

Farnborough College of Technology

Highly Commended - Carl Anderson

Derby College


Adult Student of the Year


Highly Commended - Ben Mager

Weston College

Highly Commended - Fahd Saleh

West Nottinghamshire College


Apprentice of the Year

Highly Commended - Tara Massey

Myerscough College

Highly Commended - Shaun Lamb

Blackpool & The Fylde College

If you have any questions, please email Jessie Sefulu-Tosswill, Communications Officer.