STUDENTS were urged to dive in and live their dreams by a celebrated Olympic Swimmer as he awarded prizes recognising their efforts.

Olympic 200m breast stroke champion James Kirton was speaking to Year 7, 8, 9 and 10 students at Haughton Academy, Darlington, at their inaugural celebration event.

Before handing out the awards, James, who represented Great Britain on the world stage at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, told pupils: “The great thing about these awards is that they are not necessarily about the being the best, but about giving your best and that is incredibly important.

“I’m just an ordinary person from a council estate and was told that going to the Olympics was something that would never happen to someone like me. But I was mad about swimming and am living proof that if you stick at something you are passionate about, anything is possible.”

Certificates and prizes were awarded for achievement and excellence in a range of subjects from RE to resistant materials and creative media to computing as pupils were recognised for their hard work and dedication to their studies.

Deputy head teacher Su Gill, who welcomed pupils, parents and staff to the academy, said: “There were lots of nominations, in over 20 subject and personal development categories, so it was an extremely difficult job for all of the teachers to choose the winners.

“What I hope we have shown tonight in our celebration, and by listening to James, is that it is ok to succeed and to be successful and it is ok to always try your best.”  

Entertainment for the evening was provided by singer Grace Mansfield, 13, guitarist Lucas Wood, 13 and pianist Ethan Shepherd Smart, 14.

Principal Jonathan Lumb added: “This has been a wonderful evening in what will now become an annual event here at Haughton Academy.

“Events like this are always some of my favourite evenings of our school year when we can celebrate the success of so many of our young people, but none of this could have been achieved without the help of our magnificent teaching staff, governing body and parents.

“I would like to applaud all of our pupils here for trying to be the very best that they can.”

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