Students who excelled in exceptional circumstances were recognised at the glamorous Helena Kennedy Foundation (HKF) Awards.
More than a dozen learners were invited to the House of Lords to receive their certificate from Baroness Kennedy QC, president of HKF. Each year, HKF invites further education and sixth form colleges and adult education centres across the UK to nominate up to five learners for an award.
Set up in 1998, the awards are aimed at providing support to students from the sector who have overcome significant obstacles, both financial and personal, to complete their further education. Baroness Kennedy said: “It’s only right and proper that we should all be in the most important building in our nation – because we’re celebrating you. We’re celebrating the success that you have achieved already, and wishing you well in the next step of your academic career.”
We’re celebrating the success that you have achieved already, and wishing you well in the next step of your academic career”
She added: “It’s wonderful to see so many more women, people from ethnic minorities, and people from all sorts of backgrounds entering into all sorts of walks of life, and it’s all been because of educational opportunities. We’re giving them (awards) to you because of the courage you have shown, the sheer grit of saying ‘I’m going to do this’, and you’ve done it.”
Sam Parker, a former award winner in 2008, gave an emotional speech explaining how he had been supported through both further and higher education. Mr Parker said: “I had a lot of negative experiences at school. Unfortunately I left with only a couple of low grade GCSEs.”
Sam developed a number of mental health issues in late adolescence, but had the courage to refer himself to a local mental health team. A therapist said he should return to education and despite some resistance, Sam went on to complete his maths and English GCSEs, as well as an Access to HE course.
Sam later won an Adult Learners’ Week Award and the London region award for Access to HE. He received a gold scholarship from the HKF and went on to gain a first class honours degree at university, despite dealing with the death of a relative in his second year and a job interview during his final year – both on the same day as his final exams.
It’s wonderful to see so many more women, people from ethnic minorities, and people from all sorts of backgrounds entering into all sorts of walks of life, and it’s all been because of educational opportunities.”
Mr Parker said: “I’m really grateful to the Foundation for all the help over the past 3 years, because it’s not just financial, it’s practical, personal (support).
“Congratulations to all this year’s award winners, and thanks again for all your (HKF’s) help.”