There was joy, celebration, applause and loud cheers echoing around the auditorium walls at London South East Colleges' first ever inaugural awards last night. At times, the individual stories of courage, determination and dedication were enough to bring tears of emotion as the audience was told of the levels of adversity and obstacles students had overcome to succeed on their chosen courses.

Seventeen students took to the stage to receive their awards from special guest Michelle Dewberry. The former Apprentice winner and TV presenter spoke to guests about her own personal rise against the odds, the things that inspired her and how she remained driven by ambition to become a Sky TV presenter and company owner.

Despite leaving school early without qualifications, Michelle attended college in the evenings and became determined to succeed in the world of business. She now runs several IT companies alongside her TV and charity work.

In her address, Michelle said: Everybody has a different story and a different set of challenges to overcome. The achievements we hear about during this ceremony should be celebrated and used to inspire others. This is what tonight is all about.

“My advice is to set yourself targets and follow your dreams. The world is an exciting place and with enough drive and determination, you can achieve everything you dream of.”

This year’s winners represented the College's Bromley, Bexley, Greenwich and Orpington campuses. They were nominated by their tutors and chosen from a range of subject areas, including business, public services, law, hospitality and engineering and much more.

The College was delighted to welcome over one hundred guests to the event, which took place at Rose Bruford College in Sidcup; a central point in the London South East Colleges area. Guests included the Mayor of Bexley, College governors, local authority representatives, family members, education partners and employers.

Principal, Sam Parrett OBE presented her own award to a student who had achieved outstanding success this year. This was given to Iwan MacKenzie, a travel and tourism student at the College’s Greenwich Campus.

Collecting his award, Iwan said: “I have to say, I’m hugely shocked to receive this. I’m so glad I brought my mum and dad with me. They are literally brimming with pride right now.”

The ceremony was also a great opportunity for the College to present awards to a number of different employers who have played a huge role in shaping our curriculum and providing high-quality work experience, internships and apprenticeship opportunities to our students. These were: Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, London Borough of Bexley, Alison Price and Company and R&MA Stewart.

Sam Parrett summed up the evening and paid tribute to all of this year’s winners by saying: "I think I can confidently speak for everyone attending tonight’s event that this has been a truly wonderful evening hearing about our students’ exceptional achievements and successes.

“It is our first full year as London South East Colleges. Bringing together three colleges has been no easy task but I thank all staff and students for playing their part in such a successful merger.

“We are extremely grateful for all the support we have received and continue to receive from staff, stakeholders, governors, parents, students, employers and each local authority. Michelle is a very inspiring host.

“Our college brings together communities and enables people to gain the qualifications and skills they need to achieve career success. All of our winners are inspirational and set an amazing example to others - showing the dedication and commitment needed for success. I congratulate them and wish them all the very best for the future.”

Read more award winners’ comments below:

Apprentice of the Year, Leanna Kite, Dental Nursing Level 3 Diploma: “London South East Colleges have laid on a brilliant ceremony tonight. Talking to some of the other winners, it seems like we are all feeling that the efforts we have made during the year are well appreciated.”

FE Student of the Year (Bexley Campus), Charlie Sparks, Health and Social Care Level 3 Diploma: “It’s a great feeling knowing you have won an award like this. To me, it represents all the hard work and late nights I have put in. In my first-year exams, I received a distinction grade and I’m determined to match the effort and do the same in my second year. Bring it on.”

SEN Student of the Year (Bromley Campus), Callum Mountford, Employment Preparation:My brilliant tutor, Peter, nominated me for this award and I’m very grateful. I have had a great year at the College and made huge strides. I was a bit negative about everything when I first came here. Something has definitely happened because I’m now so positive.”

CIOB Maidstone Hub Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement, Dupe Oyelade, HND in Construction Management: “I’m just buzzing after receiving this award tonight. I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and feel that I’ve made all the right moves and decisions during my course. To receive a special award from the CIOB is just amazing. Thank you so much London South East Colleges.”

Adult Student of the Year, Sarah Thapa, Access to HE Nursing: “This is the second piece of brilliant news I’ve received recently. First I was accepted onto a BSc Nursing degree course at the University of East London and now I’ve won this wonderful accolade at the College’s awards ceremony. I have achieved more in the last year than I could ever possibly have imagined.”

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