Hard work and determination are second nature to college students Simon and Dylan.

For Redcar granddad, Simon, that has meant overcoming his childhood fears of the classroom to retrain and start a new career on a hospital ward, starting work at the height of Covid.

While Dylan, of Billingham, has worked tirelessly towards his ambitions alongside a lengthy three and a half-year battle with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Both have now been named finalists at the Association of Colleges’ (AoC) Student of the Year Awards.

For AoC Higher Education Student of the Year finalist and Redcar and Cleveland College student, Simon, returning to the classroom was quite a challenge.

Never a fan of school he had always hid away at the back. It was after a string of jobs over the years that he decided he wanted to work for the NHS and braved a return to the classroom.

“I kept telling myself I was too old to start my training,” he said. Fortunately, he didn’t give in to the doubts.

Simon, 51, went on to complete his access to higher education health at the college before moving on to level 4 and now level 5 qualifications.

Volunteering to work at The James Cook University Hospital mid pandemic, Simon went on to be offered a job, he is now a healthcare assistant in critical care.

He said: “The first time I came to college, I was the quiet lad sat at the back of the class again, just like school. But eventually, I started moving to the front of the class.”

Nominating him for the AoC Higher Education Student of the Year Award, Redcar and Cleveland College’s Michelle Kelso said: “To think that one of my students has stood up there and, in a way, risked his own life to help preserve other people’s lives, I am just an extremely proud tutor.”

Down to the final two for the AoC Adult Learner of the Year is Bede Sixth Form College student, Dylan. He said: “It’s a really big shock. I didn’t expect this at all. It is such an achievement and I feel quite honoured.”

It was ambitions to work in the police that helped to drive 20-year-old Dylan to complete the public services course at Bede.

Diagnosed with leukaemia at 15, he had long since learnt to live with regular hospital stays and treatment.

Nominating him for the award, his tutor, George Parkinson, said: “You would often get his peers perhaps thinking, “I can’t be bothered today, this is a hard fitness session,” and then Dylan runs past them and it’s like, “whoa, hang on a second, I need to up my game a little bit here.”.”

Dylan completed his treatment last December and he is now studying professional policing at CU Scarborough.

There are just four AoC Student of the Year titles up for grabs, winners will be announced in the New Year.


Simon Wood Dylan Westgarth Bede Sixth Form College
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