Catching up with past award winners

We caught up with some of our past award winners to see what they’ve been up to…

Karl Anthony, Finalist 2019

A motorcycle accident left Karl potentially unable to walk unaided for the rest of his life. His dramatic rehabilitation to full mobility led him to become a qualified personal trainer and during his work with clients he realised his own experience could help others with their recovery. He went on to study for a sports therapy degree at the University of East London, and was a finalist in the Festival of Learning Awards 2019.

Over the summer I’ve been involved in a project to keep students engaged with their studies over the extended break. Working with a team of students, we produced videos on anatomy and physiology, and I wrote a series of blog posts and articles to introduce sports science concepts, sports coaching and to expand on the anatomy videos. I found this incredibly rewarding and it builds on my work as a student mentor. 

Producing these articles had also made me realise how much I enjoy writing. This is particularly strange to me as I am dyslexic, and I spent the majority of my life avoiding writing! I now have plans to write my own anatomy book to help students with OSCE exams and I am hoping to be published in the fields of sports therapy, strength and conditioning and sports science. Being at university is not only preparing me for my future career in sports therapy, it has opened new opportunities and career avenues I had never previously considered or thought possible.

Oriana White, Highly Commended 2018

Oriana joined the Working Men’s College through a referral from Kings Cross Hospital trauma clinic, and her return to education gave her the confidence to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. She was highly commended at the Festival of Learning Awards 2018.

I facilitate trauma informed creativity for wellbeing workshops which are based on my own lived experience and education. These are accessible workshops in the community. I continue to work in collaboration with the NHS trust at the trauma hospital. Working in mental health while becoming a community arts tutor, alongside being a learner ambassador is an incredible opportunity.  I’m writing a book about my progress through the arts and living with complex PTSD.  I also continue to speak at events about surviving trauma and recently became part of a theatre creative collective.

I’ve really enjoyed the journey so far. I continue to live with long term effects and health conditions which can be challenging. Rebuilding your life takes time. Lockdown has been difficult, though putting my technical skills to good use to facilitate online arts workshops has been enjoyable and important for us to stay connected while nurturing our creativity.

Stuart Ferriss, Return to Learning 2019

At school Stuart was told to sit at the back of the classroom because he couldn’t read or write. Aged 50, he began attending the dyslexia study skills class run by Oldham Lifelong Learning Service. Stuart’s return to learning opened up new and better job opportunities, and had a profound impact on his life. He won the Return to Learning award in 2019.

Since my award last I completed last year’s English course and I am currently still employed by my local community centre where use my skills on a daily basis.

In my spare time I have set a mini business with the help of my family to create signs and other items made from recycled wood I have.
Below is some of the designs I have made over the last few months.
I just want to thank the lifelong learning service and the Festival of Learning for all their help.

Taylor Bird, Young Adult Learner 2017

Taylor was bullied at school because of her learning and physical disabilities. At college, however, she discovered that her differences were accepted and she had found a more supportive environment where she could flourish and express herself. Taylor chose a creative pathway which led her to progress onto a photography degree, becoming only the second person in her family to go to university. She won the Young Adult Learner award in 2017.

When I thought about what I wanted to gain to progress further with my business, which was mentoring, education, teaching, childcare and sign language, I furthered my knowledge with courses.

Through the years I have gained the speciality of the subjects when I do my workshops or collaborations in the business. I haven’t done the sign language courses yet, but I will within the next few months. I will then use this towards the progress of being a hidden disability creative company.

When I do photoshoots, if clients have hearing difficulties, I want to have the connection with that client through sign language which will be something that is unique with my company. For my business at the moment I am working collaboratively with a local creative hub in Wolverhampton.

Tracey Everitt, Learning for Work 2018

After hitting rock bottom Tracey decided to pour her energies into creating a new future for herself and her two children. She returned to learning, and is now running a successful childminding business. She won the Learning for Work award in 2018.

First of all, I was really surprised and still am that I won the award, as I did not think anyone would be interested in my story. I was just doing what I needed to so that I could move forward, and I am still doing this.

Since winning the award I have grown my business with my daughter and sister both working alongside me, enjoying being part of the children’s learning journey.

My child psychologist course has supported me with my understanding of the children’s thinking of the world around them, and I can support them with their development though activities.

The world has change over the last few months. Let’s face it, we have all had to change what we do in life at the minute with COVID-19, and it has had an impact on my business with children leaving or doing reduced hours, and my daughter has moved on to another setting.

I am still leaning and looking at what next in regards to study.

Thank you to everyone that picked my story, and a big thank you to Colin Gardiner at Islington for all his support!!

Vicky Seagars, New Directions 2019

Attending family learning courses run by Kent Adult Education with support from the family liaison officer at her children’s school gave Vicky the boost she needed to pursue her dream of becoming a midwife. She won the New Directions award in 2019.

Since winning the award we have continued to learn as a family. We have had another baby and are looking at doing baby sign together. The children enjoyed learning with us over lockdown and spending time using skills that we learnt during our courses.

I am now only 13 weeks away from being a fully qualified midwife, set to qualify with a first-class degree with honours, and I have secured a job. I am so excited for our future.

I continue to advocate for adult learning and the difference it can make to individuals and families, and have even spoken in different groups, from other mums in similar situations to the one I was in, to a parliamentary reception!