University-level students at West Nottinghamshire College have donned their caps and gowns for two graduation ceremonies at the college’s Derby Road campus.

More than 270 students graduated from Higher Education (HE) programmes studied last academic year and the previous academic year. The graduation ceremony, on Saturday 20 November, was celebrated with students’ family, friends, tutors and fellow classmates.

Students collected their graduation certificates from Denise Baker, the interim pro-vice chancellor for the college of health psychology and social care at the University of Derby. Principal and chief executive of the college, Andrew Cropley presented all Birmingham City University certificates and those accredited by Pearson Education to students.

Both ceremonies welcomed Martin Rigley MBE, managing director of Lindhurst Engineering and college governor, as the keynote speaker.

The graduation ceremonies also saw 10 students win outstanding student awards – with two students also receiving student of the year awards for performance on their courses.

Each ceremony saw two special Principal’s Award winners. Thirty-one-year-old Charlotte Bakewell from Sutton-in-Ashfield, was nominated by her tutor for her success on the Foundation Degree in Children’s and Young People’s Service (Teaching Assistant Pathway).

The college’s vice chair of the college board Kate Truscott presented Charlotte with her Principal’s Award.

Charlotte was greatly appreciated by her peers for her continued support. Despite experiencing a number of deeply personal challenges to face and overcome during her time on the programme she faced every one of them with a sunny smile and matter-of-factness that filled tutors with awe. She also embraced dyslexia, and her alternative way of thinking which led to some fascinating academic discussions.

Charlotte said: “Life at West Notts College has been so supportive. It’s been incredible and the friends that I’ve made are wonderful. Being on this course has meant that I was able to challenge myself and made me feel that I could achieve something.

“I was so shocked to hear that I was one of the outstanding award winners, then to receive the Principal’s Award was a complete shock. I am a senior teaching assistant for students with dyslexia and low literacy at Sutton Academy and I am now focussing on going into teaching.”

HNC Construction and the Built Environment student Jessica Garner was the winner of the second Principal’s Award. Jessica, 25, from Mansfield, was nominated by her tutors for her motivation on the course. As Jessica couldn’t attend the event, her tutor Andrew Stevens collected this on her behalf.

Having never written academic work at this level, Jessica managed to achieve pleasing merit grades in her work. But she didn’t settle at this at worked with such effort and commitment and began producing consistent distinction standard work. She always displayed a real joy and enthusiasm in the classroom which impressed her tutors.

Jessica said: “It’s an honour to receive the outstanding student and Principal’s Award. When I first started the course I was just starting out in construction, and was nervous to begin the new chapter in my life. The support I received from my tutors and fellow students was outstanding, I always felt encouraged to achieve my best and knew I had the support behind me to attain my goals.

“The course has really helped to widen my knowledge about the construction sector which is put into practise daily in my place of work. A big thank you to the amazing tutors and I wish all my fellow students the best with their future careers.”

The event also saw a number of the college’s own staff graduate from courses held at the Mansfield-based college.

Principal and chief executive Andrew Cropley said: “The talent, dedication and energy that our students have committed to their courses has been phenomenal and I am certain this will be repaid over a hundred times in the years to come.

“Even without the pandemic, none of us should underestimate the scale of these achievements. Students have shown great courage in taking on the challenges, with many of them overcoming a number of academic and personal challenges along the way. Huge thanks go to their families, their peers and tutors and support staff for steering them towards this successful point in their lives.

“I’ve been delighted to see so many students take the journey from level 2 and 3 courses to studies at university-level and enriching their knowledge so whole-heartedly, ready to thrive in future studies and employment. I couldn’t be prouder of their success.”

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