The outstanding achievements of more than 300 students were celebrated at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s annual graduation ceremony in Llandudno.
The glitzy Venue Cymru bash marked the culmination of years of dedicated study for learners on Undergraduate, Foundation Degree, Higher National Certificate and Postgraduate courses at Coleg Llandrillo, Coleg Menai and Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor.
The successful students will now look forward to new opportunities after donning their caps and gowns to celebrate the rewards of their hard work and commitment.
Many succeeded while balancing other commitments such as work and family, while others achieved their degrees despite battling health problems.
Collette McDowell, from Colwyn Bay, has secured a job teaching Public Services after graduating with a distinction from her PGCE at Coleg Llandrillo.
She achieved the highest possible grade despite suffering health problems during her course, and also while caring for her autistic son.
Collette said: “Five years ago I was diagnosed with a brain condition which caused me to collapse frequently and resulted in chronic migraines and other health issues.
“I decided I had to go to university as nobody knew how sick I would get. So I completed my first degree in Social Policy at Bangor University. After obtaining a first-class honours degree I then decided I wanted to go into teaching.
“I then discovered that I could do that in Llandrillo College as a postgraduate so I applied to study the PGCE at the Rhos Campus. I have had many health issues over the two-year course and am a single parent and carer to my autistic son, but I have completed my PGCE with distinction despite everything that happened.”
She added: “I have had so much support from all the PGCE lecturers and have loved every minute of the course. It really is an amazing qualification and it is extremely rewarding and well designed. The passion the lecturers have for the PGCE is second to none! I will miss being in the lessons next year.”
Sisters Kelly and Sarah Kynaston both graduated with a 2:1 from the BA (Hons) Health and Social Care course at Coleg Llandrillo – after both decided to do the course when they attended an open day together.
Kelly said: “I’d wanted to go to uni for years. I did my A-levels, but I had my first child while still doing A-levels, so I started working after that.
“I live in Llandudno and my children go to school in Colwyn Bay, and if the course hadn’t been available so close to home I wouldn’t have been able to do it. So I’m really grateful to Coleg Llandrillo and I’m glad the work I put into my A-levels hasn’t gone to waste.”
Sarah said: “I wasn’t really thinking about doing a degree. I was looking more into public services or policing. But at the open day the programme leader explained that it was a pathways course with different modules that covered various aspects.
“That grabbed both our attention, because we wanted to do different things but it meant we could do the same course.
“Everyone on our course was good at spurring each other on and helping each other. It was an added extra to have my sister on the course with me. We’d say to each other, ‘If I can do it you can do it’ or one of us would pick the children up so the other could finish an assignment, and it was great to have that extra support.”
There will be a triple celebration for the family later this year when their younger sister Gemma graduates from Bangor University with a degree in adult nursing.
Hannah Evans, from Llanddulas, achieved a distinction in her Level 5 FdA Health and Social Care at Coleg Llandrillo despite missing two months of the course through illness.
She decided not to defer and completed the course while caring for her mum, who spent two months in hospital.
Hannah said: “I was off with glandular fever for two months in January and February, and I’d only handed in one assignment by then, so I had a lot of catching up to do, and this last term was tough.
“My tutor Sarah Harris was amazing. She really helped me with my deadlines and kept me going when it all got a bit too much. I don’t think I’d have carried on if it wasn’t for her motivation.
“There was an option of deferring, but I was quite adamant that I wanted to complete it this year, and I’m glad I stuck it out. I was quite proud of myself.”
Hannah will return to Coleg Llandrillo in September to complete her Level 6 qualification before doing a Masters as she plans to become a social worker.
Iwan Kojs graduated with a distinction from his HNC in Civil Engineering at Coleg Menai in Llangefni, and is going to Liverpool John Moores University to complete his degree.
He said: “I found it a really interesting course with lots of support as well from the lecturers. They were always there to help and that made it really easy to settle in. I’m really proud.”
Sioned Evans graduated from the PGCE course at Coleg Menai with a merit, while working at Coleg Llandrillo as a lecturer in Health and Social Care.
She has now secured a job teaching the same course at Coleg Menai, where she can be closer to her home in Llangefni.
Sioned, who first graduated from a counselling degree 20 years ago, said: “I used to work at Coleg Menai years ago, so it feels like I’m coming home.
“I just wanted to pass the course, but I got a merit and I’m really proud of myself.”
Nia Parry, from Blaenau Ffestiniog, graduated from her BA Hons in Health and Social Care from Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor in Dolgellau.
She said: “After three years of hard work, being able to celebrate with family and friends here today is a very special feeling.”
Lucy Ann Jones, from Bangor, is planning to study a PGCE after graduating from her BA Hons degree in fine art at Coleg Menai.
She said: “I felt really supported and I really enjoyed it. It was a very interesting course.”
Dafydd Evans, Chief Executive at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, said: “It was a pleasure to host our 2023 graduation ceremony – congratulations to all of our students on their achievements. We wish them well for the future and look forward to hearing where their career takes them.
“Grŵp Llandrillo Menai continues to expand its portfolio of Higher Education courses, and we’re proud to be the largest and most diverse provider of Higher Education courses within further education in Wales.”
The college group has been at the forefront of developing and promoting modern and unique Foundation Degrees and vocational courses, which further increase and widen participation in higher education, and meet the needs of students and local employers.
The new Level 4 Healthcare Practice Programme, which is equivalent to the first year of nursing at university, is a high-quality, innovative course which is now commissioned directly by Health Education Improvement Wales. The course is delivered to more than 200 students annually across all of Wales through distance or blended learning.
The £4.5million University Centre Coleg Llandrillo (UCCL) at the group’s Rhos-on-Sea campus – built in partnership with Bangor University – is the base for nearly 1,000 learners and provides students with bespoke teaching and learning facilities in one dedicated centre, rather than in different locations across the college campus.
For more information on Higher Education courses at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, click here.