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Students celebrate making the grade at prestigious graduation ceremony

22 Nov 2023
Graduates throwing caps

STUDENTS celebrated their achievements and compared notes on their next career steps at a prestigious graduation ceremony at Middlesbrough’s historic Town Hall.

180 higher education students from Middlesbrough College celebrated with friends and family as they picked up university level qualifications in a range of subjects, including Business Management, Teaching and Learning, Culinary Arts, Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, Engineering and Computing.

Harriet Bonner

Among those graduating was Harriet Bonner, from Thornaby, who overcame a whole raft of challenges to graduate with a BSc (Hons) in Health, Wellbeing and Social Care.

Harriet had started her degree in 2019, but dropped out of her first year with her own mental wellbeing and the Covid lockdown taking its toll.

However, the determined 25-year-old reapplied and completed her course, balancing her studies with work and with looking after her son Rudi, who is now two-years-old.

Harriet said: “I went into my second year as a single parent and had been offered a job where I was doing my placement.

“It was difficult balancing everything but I got such a lot of support, help and motivation from my tutors at Middlesbrough College – they helped me so much.

“At some points, tutors were having calls with me at 10pm because that was the only time I had available so that support was a big factor in my success on the course.”

Harriet is now working within mental health services in the NHS – “always my dream job” – and has been offered the chance to do a nursing degree while working.

She has plans in the longer term to study for PGCE and Master’s qualifications so she can teach future mental health workers.

Ben Whitehead

After studying at Middlesbrough College, 2023 graduate Benn Whitehead is now teaching there.

The 25-year-old from Middlesbrough started his studies at the College with a BTEC in Performing Arts before going on to do a Performing Arts degree at the University of Cumbria.

Benn returned to Middlesbrough and started a PGCE teacher training course at Middlesbrough College last September, graduating this summer.

He’s now gone from being a student to being a teacher, having secured a job at Middlesbrough College as a Thrive tutor, where he helps a wide range of students offering advice, guidance and support to help prepare them for progression to apprenticeship or higher education as well as liaising with employers and placement providers.

Benn said: “It was a different experience coming back to Middlesbrough College after university but it was a really good experience and I got a lot of support on the course.

“I wanted to teach at college level so when I was offered the job here, I jumped at the chance.

“I have always felt comfortable at the College even from my first days as a student and that’s continued into my job here.

“I enjoy coming to work – the people are great, the management are very supportive and I’m very happy here.”

Class Valedictorian Carl Boobyer

The Class Valedictorian of 2023 is proof positive that gaining a degree and changing your life can happen at any time.

Carl Boobyer had spent a career working in IT at various corporations before deciding during lockdown in 2020 that it was time for a change.

The 59-year-old, who is originally from Bishop Auckland, started with a foundation degree in Culinary Arts & Management before going on to get a BA (Hons) in the discipline, chalking up a First for his work.

This year Carl graduated with a Master’s in Hospitality & Tourism, choosing his work with Hartlepool Borough Council on the Tall Ships event as the subject of his 20,000-word dissertation.

He is now putting his studies into practice with catering business, The Craft, which is based at Hartlepool Small Crafts Association and which he co-owns with business partner Leesa Tallon.

Carl said: “Being an older student, it was a bit strange at first going back into education, but I soon made a lot of connections and a lot of friends and I’ve really enjoyed my time at Middlesbrough College.

“The skills that I’ve learned on the course, from branding and marketing to financial management, have all been extremely useful in my new business.

“As I said in my speech at the graduation, you should never let age be a barrier to going back to education and following your dreams.”

Carl gave the Valedictory Speech in front of hundreds of guests who attended the ceremony at the Town Hall, to watch their family and friends graduate.

The university level qualifications awarded at the ceremony included Foundation Degrees, Bachelor’s Degrees, Masters Degrees, Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, with most validated by the Open University and Pearson Education.

As well as expert teaching and first-class facilities, Middlesbrough College delivers jobs-focused, flexible, affordable learning that equips students with the skills and knowledge that employers need. And the student experience is different from a traditional university, with smaller class sizes meaning more contact time with tutors.

Many of the higher education programmes at the College are available to study on a full and part-time basis too, giving students the flexibility to study around their work and home life commitments.

Find out more about Higher Education courses here.

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