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First college lecturer to teach black history all year round wins prestigious AoC President’s Award

Ellisha Soanes, winner of the AoC President’s Award 2021

Ellisha Soanes, a health and social care lecturer at West Suffolk College has scooped this year’s Association of Colleges’ (AoC) President’s Award. Each year the AoC President chooses one inspiring person from the further education sector to highlight the unique and profound impact they have had on their college and community.

At the prestigious dinner after the first day of AoC’s annual conference in Birmingham, Sally Dicketts, AoC President 2021-22 praised the positive change Ellisha’s work is having on the students and staff at West Suffolk College and the wider community and the legacy that has been created. 

Ellisha work began following the murder of George Floyd in the US and the Black Lives Matter protests across the world in 2020 and started a conversation with her students about racism. Encouraging them to explore what equality, diversity and inclusion meant to them and their own experiences. This led to a host of high-profile events, student-led campaigns and funding from the European Social Fund and PLACE 21 to employ a new group of students and staff at the college to be ambassadors for equality, diversity and digital inclusion, of which Ellisha is one.

AoC President, Sally Dicketts said: 

“I’m delighted to be able to present Ellisha Soanes with President’s Award 2021. Getting to tell Ellisha’s story at our first in-person conference since the pandemic was a great honour. 

“Ellisha’s work to bring about positive change with her students on equality, diversity and inclusion has had a profound impact and becoming the first college in the country to teach black history all year round is an amazing achievement. 

“Her passion and enthusiasm for equality, diversity and inclusion and co-creating awareness-raising events and projects with students has had a powerful impact on young people, staff and the wider community. The sheer amount of work undertaken in such a short time is impressive and the ambassador programme that was launched recently will ensure this hard work has a long-lasting impact, creating a legacy Ellisha should be proud of.”

Health and social care lecturer and Equality Diversity and Inclusion Co-ordinator, Ellisha Soanes, said:

“I’m honoured to be recognised for my contribution in EDI, making changes for the future in FE. I have a fantastic team and amazing students that have helped steer the way. Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world, and I hope others use the same ethos going forward.”

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