A student film-maker and an aspiring accountant from Walsall are celebrating after being named the Association of Colleges students of the year.
Jonathan Morris won the Higher Education Student of the Year Award sponsored by Reed. He is currently studying a HND in Creative Media Production at Walsall College.
And Scott Yarrington has won the Adult Student of the Year award, sponsored by Pearson. The former army lance corporal has been studying English, maths and book-keeping at the college.
He is also training for a role as a public speaker and workshop facilitator on behalf of Blesma, a charity that supports limbless veterans like himself.
“We’re incredibly proud of Jonathan and Scott,” said Walsall College Principal and Chief Executive, Jatinder Sharma OBE. “Their success demonstrates exactly what people can achieve at their local college, when they have access to the courses, learning environment, encouragement and support they need.
“As their student journeys continue, we look forward to championing their further progress.”
22-year-old Jonathan, who has hemiplegia cerebral palsy began his college studies on an entry level skills for working life programme. He then gained a Level 1 creative media qualification before progressing each year up to his current course.
During this time, he has done everything possible to improve his skills and gain practical experience. This includes creating Ability Street, his own YouTube Channel about disability awareness and mental health. He has also filmed and edited videos on behalf of local organisations.
Commenting on his award, Jonathan said: “It’s a real confidence boost. It’s confirmation of what I can do and it extinguishes some of the doubts I’ve had about myself in the past.
He added: “The award tells me I’m doing something good.”
Scott Yarrington has also proved to be remarkable by reinventing his career. This comes ten years after he lost his legs stepping on an improvised explosive device in northern Helmand province, Afghanistan.
He spent two and half years in rehabilitation, before learning to walk with prosthetic limbs. Along with becoming involved with charities for former veterans and representing Blesma, Scott also volunteers twice a week at a local army cadet forces centre.
“I’m pleased to have won the award,” said Scott, 35. “It’s good that people can see the struggle that I go through and want to honour it instead of pity me. It’s nice to show others that no matter what’s affecting them, you can get support and find ways to turn things around.
“I’ll be carrying on with college for as long as it takes to get where I want to be.”
Scott added: “I always knew I didn’t just want a job, but a career too. Public speaking, combined with an accountancy role will give me this.”
Scott’s studies at Walsall College have been delivered through the Connecting Communities programme, funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), which gives local jobseekers tailored job advice and specialist support in the heart of their own community.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “I’d like to congratulate Scott and Jonathan on winning the Association of Colleges students of the year awards. Training local people in the skills they need to start new careers is a vital part of our region’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and my plan to get 100,000 people into work in the next two years, which is why the WMCA is funding as many courses as possible.
“It’s great that we have two winners from Walsall College, and this shows the dedication of our further education colleges in helping students achieve their potential in these difficult times.”
Sally Dicketts, President of the Association of Colleges, said: “Each year the level of applications is extremely high, and it goes to show the fantastic work that students are doing in colleges as well as the lengths colleges go to support their students. It is particularly amazing to see these achievements in such a turbulent year. Jonathan and Scott have done amazingly well to come first and should be extremely proud.”
The awards were announced at CollegesLive 2021 – An enriching and formative online experience for college students to hear from game changers, innovators, survivors, and risk takers from across the globe.