A GRADUATE who overcame a lifelong struggle to make the grade in maths is now counting on a dream career in nursing after becoming Student of the Year.
Vicky Neeson was presented with the principal’s top award at a celebration event at Darlington College to recognise dedication, enthusiasm and excellence in learning.
Vicky, 30, of Catterick, was also presented with the Outstanding Student for Access to Higher Education after completing the Darlington College programme in September 2015.
“I am absolutely overwhelmed,” said Vicky. “I never expected this at all but it just goes to show that if you really want something and you work hard it makes it all worthwhile.
“I always wanted to be a nurse but not having a maths qualification held me back – but not anymore.”
Told by a maths teacher at school that she was stupid Vicky became terrified of raising her hand in lessons.
“I just couldn’t get maths,” said Vicky. “The teacher’s comment just made it worse so I just stopped trying.
“I failed my maths GCSE and without it I couldn’t get onto a nursing course so when I left school I became a healthcare assistant in a nursing home.”
A number of careers followed over the years before a stay in hospital and a chance conversation with a nurse led her to enrol at Darlington College.
“The nurse told me that she had studied an access course at college and at that moment it was as if a light bulb just went off in my head,” said Vicky.
“I came to Darlington College and they had exactly the course I needed but my heart sank when I knew that I’d have to do my GCSE maths again.
“I literally cried for the first three weeks of maths lessons but the tutors were so good, kind, patient and really helped me to grasp things that I never ever thought I could – and when I eventually passed my GCSE with a C grade I cried again but this time with joy.”
As well as passing her maths GCSE Vicky also produced outstanding work on her higher education access course and has now progressed onto her dream adult nursing degree at Teesside University.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and I’m so proud to be finally doing what I’ve wanted to since I was 16-years-old,” added Vicky.
“I can’t thank the tutors at Darlington College enough for all the help they have given me since I came here.”
More than 200 friends, family and college staff gathered to celebrate the achievements of dozens of Darlington College students at the glittering celebration, covering curriculum areas such as sport and uniformed services, hospitality and catering, next steps, maths, English, childcare, health and social care, hairdressing and beauty therapy, construction and engineering, automotive, science, media, computing, business administration and tourism.
Awards were presented by college principal Kate Roe and chair of governors Pat Howarth.
“Our annual student awards are the highlight of the college year,” said Ms Roe.
“The winners here tonight are the elite from over 2,000 students who have gone above and beyond in their learning and I am exceptionally proud of all of them.”
Mr Howarth added: “The determination and dedication shown by the students here tonight are the key ingredients to their future success.
“I would like to congratulate them all for their hard work and also thank the extremely hardworking staff here at Darlington College for their continued commitment to excellence.”
Student of the Year in Construction – Ryan Wilshere,
Outstanding Student in Construction – Joe Scully
Most Improved Next Steps – Jack Buckle
Outstanding Student Next Steps – Shaun Moore
Most Improved Hairdressing – Tia Johnson
Hairdressing Student of the Year – Rachelle McLachlan
Student of the Year Beauty Therapy – Helen Pritchard
Most Improved Catering – Callum Crackett
Student of the Year Catering – Charlie Sargent
Most Improved Sport – Sophie Kirk
Student of the Year Sport Science – Lois Farndale
Most Improved Travel and Tourism – Claire-Louise Ashford
Student of the Year Travel and Tourism – Kayleigh Savage
Most Improved VPA – Keith Jackson
Student of the Hear VPA – James Allinson
Most Improved Media – Marcus Atkinson
Most Improved Science – Kirsten Gent
Student of the Year Science – Luca Cara
Student of the Year Engineering – Michael Gichaga
Outstanding Engineering Student – Ben Moutrey
Most Improved Automotive – Matthew Lavin
Most Improved Business – Josh Bridle
Student of the Year Business – Emily Harter
Student of the Year IT – Luke Saunders
Most Improved IT – Adrian Robson
Student of the Year Health and Care – Hans Kukreja
Student of the Year Childcare – Matthew Donoghue
Student of the Year Uniformed Services – Ethan Odziemski
Most Improved Student Health and Care – Shamiha Uddin
Most Improved Uniformed Services – Kray Williams
Outstanding Student education and Teaching – Jonathan Hedley
Most Improved Childcare – Jessica Blenkiron
Outstanding Access to Higher Education – Vicky Neeson
Outstanding Maths – Danielle Smith
Outstanding English – Cameron Berry
Principal’s Student of the Year – Vicky Neeson