Pride, laughter and a few tears were order of the day for students, parents and staff at a grand Graduation Ceremony held for Derwen College students at Lion Quays Hotel and Resort, near Oswestry, on Saturday, 8 October.
More than 180 guests, including 37 students and their families from across England and Wales, staff, supporters and local dignitaries attended the glittering event to celebrate the inspirational achievements of students at the Shropshire college for young adults with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Former students were given their certificates of graduation and individual prizes – lasting mementoes of their time at the leading specialist college. Drinks and a buffet lunch were served by the College’s Hospitality students, and entertainment provided by street dance team Derwen Dance Crew (DDC) and sign, song and dance group Derwen on Tour (DOT).
Local dignitaries attended to congratulate Derwen College students and supported interns on completing courses that enable them to achieve their ambitions, whether that be employment, voluntary work, supported living or a greater level of self-confidence and independence.
Guests included Mayor of Oswestry Jay Moore, High Sheriff of Shropshire Selina Graham, Selattyn & Gobowen parish chairman Craig Emery, and Cae Glas Lodge Freemasons Secretary Pete Adams. College Industry Champions, volunteers who share their expertise to support students and staff, also attended. These were poet and author Jan Hedges, Moreton Hall School chef Stephen Conroy and owner of Oswestry Old School House restaurant Sophie Dillon.
The Graduation was a chance for students to dress up and catch up with old friends to talk about their plans for the future.
The College presented individual prizes to exceptional students. These included the new Caitlin Kelly Spirit Award in memory of a former student who tragically died before being able to graduate. The award recognising spirit and personal growth was awarded to Retail graduate Mary Tait.
Graduate Amy Jude – who was Student Union Board President for two years – was awarded the Jonathon Wooldridge Cup for Achievement in Drama. She was also able to share news that she has been shortlisted in the Association of College’s Adult Student of the Year award.
Performing Arts graduate Anna Redding, from Shropshire, won two awards: Outstanding Student Performing Arts and Overall Outstanding Student.
Derwen College Principal Meryl Green said it had been a wonderful occasion, which had made her very proud.
She said: “Thank you to all the students and their families who made this such a special occasion. It’s such a privilege to be able to celebrate the achievements of our students. It is always sad to see students leave us but a delight to hear what the future holds for them.
“We hope that the learning and skills they develop at Derwen College will stay with them and help them through the next stages of their lives into work and independent living.”
To find out more about the learning opportunities for young adults with SEND, at the College’s Gobowen, Ludlow, Telford and Walford sites, go to www.derwen.ac.uk