THE College Rhymney held its annual prize-giving ceremony to honour the hard work of its students and staff.
Guests gathered at the Oasis Christian Centre in Blackwood where awards were presented by the Mayor of Caerphilly Gaynor Oliver in a host of categories, rewarding winners for their achievements over the last 12 months.
Jenny Clements, 36, a married mum-of-two, from Argoed, won the College’s Overcoming Adversity Award for her determination in her studies after being diagnosed with dyslexia.
Before enrolling at the main campus in Rhymney last year, Jenny was part of The College @ Large scheme where she studied at the Tab Life Centre in Pontllanfraith. It was there that her tutor suspected she may be dyslexic.
“I knew there was something not right. I struggled really badly at school. I went to college in the community before going to the main college and the tutor suspected I might be dyslexic,” said the former Blackwood Comprehensive School pupil, who is married to Carle.
She added: “They asked if I wanted to do a test for dyslexia which confirmed it. I also have Irlen Syndrome which is linked to the dyslexia. I can’t see things like other people can.”
But it didn’t put Jenny off from continuing her studies. In fact, it had the opposite effect.
After working as a sewing machinist at the now-closed Gossard’s factory in Pontllanfraith, and with her children growing up, Jenny decided she wanted to work again so went back to the classroom to gain some qualifications.
“It was a weight off my shoulders to be honest when the dyslexia was confirmed. And I was then even more eager to go to college,” said Jenny, who is mum to Luke, 15, and eight-year-old Grace.
Jenny, who also volunteers as an assistant at her daughter’s school, Markham Primary, is now in the second year of studying a business and finance course at Rhymney.
And she said the college and her tutors had made sure her dyslexia was no barrier to her succeeding in her studies.
“With the condition, different colours suit different people and they found out my colour was yellow so my computer is yellow and all my work is done on yellow paper and it helps so much. My spelling and punctuation is now so much better.
“The tutors are wonderful. I really love going to college and I always look forward to it,” said Jenny, who hopes to work in an office or as a teacher’s assistant when she completes her studies.
Canteen cook Sarah Deacon, 41, from Trethomas, won the Business Support Recognition Award after being nominated by the Rhymney Learner Council, a body made up of students on the campus.
In fact, the students were so keen to see Sarah rewarded that they asked the college to introduce the award so they could nominate the popular cook.
Sarah started work in the canteen on the Rhymney campus last October and as the only member of staff there, does everything from coming up with the menus, preparing, cooking and serving the food, taking the money and doing the washing up.
She serves dozens of students and staff each day with a choice of hot meals, jacket potatoes, sandwiches, burgers, vegetarian and healthy options and fresh fruit.
(Jenny Clement pictured left and Sarah Deacon pictured right receiving their awards from the Mayor of Caerphilly Council)
Cooking has always been a huge passion for Sarah, who, after leaving school, studied at catering college. She has been in the hospitality trade all her working life, managing a hotel, restaurant, pub and nightclub.
“I was highly honoured to be nominated. I really enjoy working here and I love what I do. It’s great to speak to the students and talk about the food and healthy eating,” said Sarah, who is married to fellow chef Ashley, who works at the Crossways pub in Caerphilly.
The culinary couple have a five-year-old son Connor, who was with Sarah as she picked up her award at the ceremony in Blackwood.
Guests were welcomed by Carolyn Donegan, Head of The College Rhymney, who introduced Deputy Principal Paul Martin and guest speaker Annette Roche, the community-based Learning Development Officer for The University of Wales, Newport.
Paying tribute to all the winners, Mrs Donegan said: “The college and the community work with 1,500 learners a year with the UHOVI (Universities Heads of the Valleys Institute) project enabling us to provide education opportunities from entry to degree level. It was wonderful to be able to see some of those 1,500 learners receive recognition for their outstanding achievements over the last year.
“As well as our students, I am delighted that members of staff were also honoured for the work they do in and around the campus. It is their hard work, professionalism and skill that helps make The College Rhymney such a wonderful place to study and work.”
During the evening, Olympic torch bearer Chloe Lewis, 21, who is studying the UHOVI Foundation Degree in Community Sports with The College Rhymney, spoke about her experience carrying the flame through her home town of Merthyr Tydfil.
Learners from Rhymney Comprehensive School provided the music for the ceremony.
(Hairdressing Level 2 Class students Amy Eynon, Peyton Davis, Holie Pearce and Samantha Preece are presented with their Advocate of the Year awards by Mayor Gaynor Oliver. Also pictured is Deputy Principal Paul Martin)
Award winners were:
Outstanding Academic Achievement -Rhymney, Peyton Davis; Community, Carol Beddis.
Greatest Academic Progress -Community, Jennifer Jordan; Rhymney, William Morris.
Greatest Academic Progress -City & Guilds -Motor Vehicle Level 2 class.
Academic Progress -Rhymney, Hairdressing Level 1 class.
Best Role Model -Rhymney, Phoebe Edwards; Community, Eileen Moss.
Best Attendance - Rhymney, Jack Ashton; Community, Oakdale Class; Community, Robert Quelch; Rhymney, William Morris; Basic Skills, Phillip Thompson.
Highly Recommended Attendance -Rhymney, Jake Harding.
Outstanding Quality of Work -Rhymney, Pottery class; Community, Sandra Brewer.
Overcoming Adversity -Community, John Jones; Rhymney, Jenny Clements.
Artistic Endeavour -Rhymney, Proteus Group.
Learning Advocate of the Year - VTCT -Hairdressing Level 2 class.
Learning Advocate of the Year -Community, Clive Hollyfield.
Learner of the Year Rhymney -Shane Cox.
Learner of the Year Community -Robert Quelch.
Learner of the Year School Links -David Connor.
ESOL Learner of the Year -Bupha Harley.
@Centre Learners of the Year -William Lewis, Abervalley; Melissa Christopher, Bargoed; Portia Hampton, Blackwood.
Learner of the Year Active Pathways - VTCT -Hannah Osborne.
Enterprise Champion -Rhymney, Motor Vehicle Level 1 class.
Wendy Harcombe Award -Rhymney, Gareth Roberts.
Rhymney Learner Council - Tutor Recognition Award -Kelly Smith.
Rhymney Learner Council - Business Support Recognition Award - Sarah Deacon.