From education to employment

Cambridge based Ukrainian student named runner up in national adult student award

Cambridge Regional College (CRC), student, Alex Kravchenko, has been named an Adult Student of the Year Award finalist, as part of the Association of Colleges (AoC) prestigious yearly awards that recognise excellence in the college education sector.

Profoundly deaf, Alex’s personal journey reveals many moments that could have stopped him achieving his personal goals. His determination and commitment to learn two languages, English, and British Sign Language, at the same time have enabled his teaching mentors to showcase his outstanding successes through the nomination. The award highlights the fantastic work that students are doing in colleges as well as the role of colleges in supporting their students.

Fleeing his home country of Ukraine, shortly after the invasion began in early 2022, Alex spent three months in a Dutch refugee camp preparing himself for a new life in the UK by learning British Sign Language. On arrival in England in 2022, he settled in Cambridge and started to build a life for himself, and in September of that year he embarked on an English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) course at CRC.

Learning the English language in an integrated class whilst increasing his BSL knowledge, which is used to interpret the English classes, Alex has been studying two languages simultaneously and using one to learn the other. Though at times it has been incredibly challenging, he has remained focused and is not shy to ask for help in class. Overcoming adversity just by arriving in the UK, he uses his circumstances and deafness to teach and inspire others, all of which has counted towards the well-deserved nomination.

Alex has given presentations to other classes (for example, Norwegian students studying in college and in other ESOL classes) and has been on the BBC news to talk about his experience and current situation, how he copes with living in a new place and studying two new languages. With the Empowering Deaf Society, he took part in a Ukrainian cultural event where he raised awareness of Ukrainian culture, with a focus on the Deaf culture in Ukraine. And by learning very quickly, he has already moved up a level in ESOL (started at entry 1) and is very proud of his story, progress, and his place at Cambridge Regional College, as are those around him.

Jonathan Ingham, Head of ESOL, International, Adult English & Maths at CRC, says:

“Alex is proof that with motivation and a ‘never give up’ attitude any challenge can be beaten. Despite the barriers, he is an inspiration to the deaf community for his advocacy work, and has encouraged people to

undertake BSL training, he is an inspiration to fellow refugees who are facing tough times, and he is an inspiration to the teaching staff who are so proud of the journey he has taken.

“Alex takes on life with a smile and an optimistic outlook. He works hard to ensure that time isn’t wasted, and opportunities aren’t missed. His commitment to study both British Sign Language and the English language is amazing, and his growth is truly staggering. We have no doubt he has difficult days, but he never lets that get him down. He has an infectious personality that rubs off on others he meets, both at college and in the wider community. It is difficult to really reflect in words how much of an incredible young man he is.”

The judging panel is made up of members of the AoC Charitable Trust Board and AoC President, and the awards ceremony was held at the Association of Colleges’ Annual Conference in Birmingham on the 14th November. The occasion displays the ways that colleges are transforming the lives of more than two million people across England and how vital colleges are to the future of the British economy in the 21st century.

Cambridge Regional College is a leading further education college with campuses in Cambridge and Huntingdon. The college is graded Good by Ofsted and Strong for Skills. It provides a wide range of vocational learning opportunities for students leaving school with vocational study programmes, apprenticeships, and higher education through to adults looking to upskill, gain qualifications, get back into the workforce or start a new hobby.

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