The main event at West Lothian College in the last week of October 2020 was our Graduate at Home ceremony and, as principal of the college, I was delighted to take part.
It was more important than ever to celebrate this year’s graduates. They are the generation of students that kept going through a worldwide pandemic and a lockdown that closed society as we knew it. Overnight, they coped with a complete shift from face-to-face teaching to remote online learning. They achieved their qualification during the most difficult period that any of us has ever had to deal with.
To me, they are all superstars and we wanted to acknowledge that.
Everyone at the college was disappointed that the global pandemic prevented us from having our usual graduation ceremony on campus this year. However, while it was a huge ask of our marketing team to design an online event that captured the warmth, enthusiasm and celebrations of our annual event, they really pulled it off!
A combination of formal speeches, announcements of award winners, and warm messages from lecturers resulted in a lovely, uplifting event, captured in this photo of HND Business graduate Caitlin Jones-Bennett celebrating with her children at home.
Hundreds of graduates registered for the event, with 50 even ordering formal gowns to graduate at home! One of the consequences of an online graduation was that more people than normal were able to join in the celebrations as this tweet from a proud parent shows.
Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Culture and Fair Work, announced the winners of Student of the Year awards and graduates and award winners were acknowledged in a parliamentary motion lodged by Angela Constance MSP.
The Student of the Year awards recognised students who, on top of their academic achievement, stood out through their commitment to the college, supporting others, or achieving additional skills from work experience or volunteering. Six awards were presented this year — five faculty Student of the Year awards, and one SQA Student of the Year award.
Faculty Student of the Year Awards
There were two winners of Student of the Year awards in the Faculty of Business, Creative and Enterprise.
Michael Allan, graduated with HNC Events, and volunteered throughout the year for all major college events including the hugely successful and innovative Interrupt19 digital conference. He assisted at The Gathering, the largest annual voluntary sector exhibition in Scotland. Michael set up his own events company this year and his talent was recognised nationally when he was shortlisted as a finalist in the Bridge to Business Young Entrepreneurs Award.
Sarah Smillie, graduated with HNC Art, and produced exceptional work from the very beginning of her course and her portfolio was exemplary, showing creativity, flair, intelligence and skill. Sarah secured degree places at all four of the most highly sought-after Scottish art schools. She decided to take her studies forward at Edinburgh College of Art where this year fewer than 5% of applicants were successful in securing a place.
There were two Student of the Year winners in the Faculty of Care, Health and Sport.
Thomas Lawson, graduated with HNC Applied Sciences, and was an enthusiastic, insightful and a thoughtful contributor to his class, and progressed very well while managing other competing demands on his time. During experiments and in theory classes he showed an enquiring mind and asked searching questions. Keen to answer the why and how questions, he went further by exploring research being carried out in these areas.
Mark Taylor, graduated with HND Fitness, Health and Exercise, and led activity sessions with primary school pupils and secured a part time coaching job where he helps children to believe in themselves and gain confidence. As part of his qualification, Mark designed and carried out personal training sessions with older adults who have mental and physical disabilities. He established his own personal training business and helps clients reduce their risk of Covid19 through exercise, diet and weight management.
The Student of the Year Award in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment was presented to Scott Smith, who graduated with an HNC Cyber Security. As well as consistently submitting work of an extremely high quality, Scott went out of his way to help fellow students when they struggled with aspects of the course. He worked very hard as a member of the new West Lothian College Ethical Hacking Club where he brought forward lots of good ideas.
SQA Student of the Year Award
The SQA Student of the Year award was presented to Costica Darie who graduated with HNC Childhood Practice.
Costica joined the college three years ago as an ESOL student. Last year, he started HNC Childhood Practice with an aspiration to articulate directly into second year of the Primary Education Studies degree at Queen Margaret University.
In addition to his studies, Costica supported the college’s Men into Childcare campaign by facilitating workshops with third year school pupils who came into the college’s forest classroom for their outdoor learning experience.
This lovely film from Costica shows how much the college helped him achieve his goal https://www.dropbox.com/s/q3wb47tbc5gv5ar/Costa%20Video%20Message.MOV?dl=0. Costica was recognised in a parliamentary motion submitted by Neil Findlay https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S5M-23245&ResultsPerPage=10MSP.
Congratulations to all special award winners. You are shining examples of the talent of West Lothian College students!
All graduation films are available to watch at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSIAAEOvZubVzQryawX3ms80J3KmkEJPP.
Definitely recommended viewing!