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Ukrainian student among high achievers celebrated at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai awards

Yuliia Batrak with Coleg Llandrillo principal Lawrence Wood and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai CEO Dafydd Evans

A record-breaking student who left Ukraine following the Russian invasion was among the winners at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s award ceremonies.

Yuliia Batrak arrived in the UK with her mum and sister, leaving behind their home in Kyiv and her dad and brother.

She was announced as the Overall Winner at Coleg Llandrillo’s Further Education Achievers Awards ceremony, after becoming the first ever competitor to score a maximum 100 points in both her competitions at the Welsh International Culinary Championship.

Also among the winners across four ceremonies at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s campuses was Arian Williams, who won the overall prize for Coleg Menai after achieving academic excellence alongside her sporting successes as a multiple Welsh athletics champion.

There were also awards for Bronwen Kennedy, who won the overall prize for Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, and Lea Morus Williams, the top prize winner for Coleg Glynllifon.

Held annually, the Further Education Achievers Award ceremonies acknowledge students who make outstanding achievements and contributions to academic studies, extracurricular activities, and the wider community.

The achievements of more than 80 of Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s further education students were celebrated at the ceremonies over the past week.

Each achiever received an engraved trophy and a cheque for £100, with the winners chosen from more than 21,000 students.

Lecturers from each subject area are invited to nominate students for an award within that discipline, with the winner being chosen by the respective Programme Area Manager. The principals of each college then go on to select their overall winner, based on their achievements and academic success.

Venue Cymru in Llandudno hosted Coleg Llandrillo’s ceremony, where Yuliia was announced as the overall winner.

This isn’t the first award she has won this year. Yuliia, who studies Food & Beverage Service at the college’s Rhos-on-Sea campus, was awarded two gold medals at the Welsh International Culinary Championship in February after scoring an unprecedented maximum 100 points in each competition – the first competitor ever to achieve this in the 25-year history of the competition. 

She was also due to compete in the UK heat of the WorldSkills culinary competition this week.

Yuliia arrived in the UK with her mum and sister following the Russian invasion of her home country.

After the ceremony, Yuliia said: “I was so surprised to win. I’m so grateful to the college and to my tutor Glen. He has supported me all the way since the first day I started. The college gives really good opportunities to work hard and to improve yourself and I’m really grateful for this. 

“Last year was really awful for me but with each day at the college I’ve started to be happier and happier. 

“My mum left the country with my sister and I without another language and not knowing where she was going to go, so she is really proud of me winning this award, and so happy.”

Sports student Arian Williams was crowned the Overall Winner at Coleg Menai’s ceremony, held in the Engineering Centre on Llangefni’s campus, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. 

Dylan Owens – Coleg Menai past-student and Head Chef of Hospitality at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium – was the evening’s guest speaker, and presented Arian with her award. 

Arian, from Caernarfon, gained a triple distinction star overall, while also being the current Welsh athletics champion over 200 metres and 100 metres, as well as 400 metres indoors. 

She also volunteers as a coach with the North West Wales Athletics Academy.

Arian said: “I am so glad that I came to study at Coleg Menai because I don’t think I would have received as much support from any other school or college as I got from Coleg Menai. This is why I want to thank all my tutors and the wellbeing team, as they have helped me so much to grow over the past two years. 

“Before coming to Coleg Menai I never thought I would be able to go to university. However, two years down the line, Coleg Menai has helped me to work hard and achieve a D*D*D* (triple distinction star) in my final grade, which I never thought I was capable of achieving before coming here. 

“I really have enjoyed my two years at Coleg Menai, and I would recommend anyone thinking of coming to study at Coleg Menai to just go for it. They will help you with anything and you will never feel alone. 

“Thankyou for everything Coleg Menai. I really hope I will enjoy university as much as I did here.”

Liam Parry was the winner of the Rhun Jones Memorial Award, presented each year to a deserving learner on the Automotive Engineering courses. The award is given in memory of Rhun Jones, who sadly passed away in February 2020 following a tragic car accident. 

Liam, a student on the Level 3 Diploma in Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair Principles, was presented with the award after showing great character, skills and technical ability during his three years at Coleg Menai.

He won gold in the Inclusive Skills Wales competition in 2020, before competing in the Skills Wales Competitions in 2022 and 2023, earning a silver medal in this year’s event. Liam finished third in this month’s UK regional skills competitions and it is hoped he will progress into the Wales squad for the WorldSkills.

Liam was described by automotive engineering lecturer Paul Griffith as “an inspiration to all other learners to not be afraid of pushing yourself and taking your skills to the next level”.

The overall winner at Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor Achievers Award Ceremony, held at Plas Tan y Bwlch, near Maentwrog, was Bronwen Kennedy.

A Level student Bronwen, from Pwllheli, has been offered a place on the medical degree programme at Cardiff University, and was commended for her hard work and passion. As well as being a fluent speaker in Welsh and English, she is also highly proficient in French, and has recently taken up Spanish lessons.

Coleg Glynllifon, the college group’s land-based education campus, held its own Prize Day ceremony, where the achievements of more than 500 students were celebrated, with Welsh Government Minister for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, in attendance. 

Lea Morus Williams (left), the overall winner for Coleg Glynllifon, being presented with her trophy by Lesley Griffiths

Lea Morus Williams was the Overall Winner at the ceremony. Lea, who studied Level 3 Agriculture, said:

“Studying agriculture at Glynllifon has been the best decision for me for my post-16 education. I have had work experience, trips, practical work, the best education and lived away from home. I would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone.”

Dafydd Evans, Chief Executive Officer of Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, said:

“Congratulations to all of the winners, who have shown exceptional commitment and talent. 

“We’re extremely proud of the outstanding achievements of our learners at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai. They are a testament to our mission statement of ‘Improving People’s Futures’ and a tribute to their supportive lecturers and personal tutors.

“Here at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai we strive for outstanding learner opportunities and success – and so events such as our Achievers Awards ceremonies are a fantastic way to celebrate their accomplishments. Well done everyone.”

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