Three high-flying students have secured national awards for fantastic work at their respective colleges and local communities at the AoC Student of the Year Awards.

Stephanie Gilbert from Cornwall College (Adult Student of the Year), Adam Dufresne from Bournemouth & Poole College (Young student of the Year) and Ellie Ferguson from Hugh Baird College (Apprentice of the Year) picked up the gongs in their categories at an evening of celebration in Birmingham.

The Student of the Award encourages colleges to nominate an individual who has either shown academic excellence, contributed to their local economy or overcome difficulty to progress. This year, the awards were presented by broadcaster and journalist Sima Koetcha, an AoC Gold Award winner.

Stephanie Gilbert was hailed as an ambassador for adult education and the impact she has had on her peers. Despite being an accomplished roofer, she decided to change career and took up a beauty therapy course at Cornwall College. Her progress has been praised despite caring for her wife who has dementia. Collecting the award for Adult Student of the Year, she said:

"It feels amazing, there were so many other good candidates out there. Colleges help to give you the skills needed to progress in life. I love helping other people and that helped make me a winner."

Adam Dufresne is studying for a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Public Services. Despite being in foster care prior to attending the college, his achievements have been commended. He has represented the college at the British Indoor Rowing Championships and is now working towards a silver Duke of Edinburgh Award. As he picked up his Young Student of the Year Award, he said:

"It feels great, I didn't expect to be shortlisted, let alone win. Colleges play a massive role in preparing you for the world of work. I really enjoy participating in loads of activities and that was a big factor in me winning."

Ellie Ferguson is studying to complete a Level 2 Apprenticeship in Health and Social Care. She has been actively involved in supporting care in the community, working alongside external charities such as The Samaritans and The Salvation Army. Speaking about her Apprentice of the Year Award, she said:

"It feels amazing, I didn't think I would get this far. My college and tutors really helped me, they have been incredibly supportive."

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “The standard of entries this year was incredibly high and each of the students deserve praise for the contribution they make to their colleges as well as the contribution they are bringing to their local community.

“All the students have done fantastically well to reach this stage so special mention must go to their colleges who do fantastic work daily to harness their skills and prepare them for the world of work.”

The finalists were:

Adult Student of the Year (19-years-old+)
• Stephanie Gilbert, Cornwall College (winner)
• Muhammad Bilal Saleem, Nelson & Colne College
• Adrian Swallow, The Northern College
• Hannah Seager, Trafford College

Young Student of the Year (16 to 18-years-old)
• Adam Dufresne, Bournemouth & Poole College (winner)
• Jephta Asamoah, Barking & Dagenham College
• Rebecca Nye, City College Southampton

Apprentice of the Year
• Ellie Ferguson, Hugh Baird College (winner)
• Ella Fielding, Exeter College

The awards were presented at an event which also saw the launch of a collaboration by the Association of Colleges and ITN Productions, highlighting the great work that goes on in colleges daily.

To find out more about the awards, click here.

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