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Monica Escobedo and Paris Flint - joint recipients of the Ian MacDonald Memorial Award at this year's Valedictory celebration.

Students, staff, alumni came together on June 11, to mark this special event on the University’s YouTube channel, sharing their congratulations and pride at the achievements throughout the year, despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.

More than 100 awards and prizes were presented to students; some recognising academic excellence, some acknowledging contributions to the local community and commitment to volunteering opportunities, with others reflecting their involvement in University life.

The Rev Canon Dr Peter Jenner, Senior Chaplain and Dean of Chapel, said: “The University Valedictory is one of my favourite days of the year. Seeing the large number of awards that are presented to students brings home to me how much they can pack into their time here.  

“Some of them have clocked up an impressive number of volunteering hours for the benefit of the local community, others have achieved remarkable success in their academic subject. At Valedictory we also enjoy hearing some of our talented music students and the whole occasion is a wonderful celebration of what University is about.”

Throughout the ceremony, Faculty staff paid tribute to the students who were awarded, and recipients relayed how much it meant to them to receive the prizes and thank their peers and lecturers for their support.

During the virtual ceremony, the roles that the University’s students have played within the local community were celebrated, with four students receiving The Outstanding Contribution to Community Award:

Katie Worden, who studies International Development Studies with French accrued 382 volunteer hours as a Student Ambassador and Student Experience Rep, and as a Charity Officer for the University’s Yoga Society and Green Impact team. In addition, the 23-year-old, from Saltash in Cornwall, has supported the University’s Induction events, the Youth Action Network, the COVID-19 Taskforce on Domestic Abuse, the Tanzania Development Trust, National Youth Engagement Network UK, Youth Against Misinformation, Restos du Coeur, and Youth Decide.

She said: “It is an honour to be recognised for the contribution my volunteering has made to my community, especially over the past year.”

Biomedical Science student Georgina Kearton, from Stoke on Trent, racked up 164 hours volunteering at University events such Induction, has served as a Student Ambassador, taken part in the University’s Volunteering Schemes, and has supported the UoC Equestrian Charity. The 23-year-old, who was also project leader of the popular Chester Student’s Dog Walkers Project,  supported the Snow Angels social enterprise which helps older people to continue to live independently.

Rachael Howe, who is studying for a Secondary PGCE in Spanish with German, has volunteered for 136 hours in the past year. The 24-year-old from Wirral, supported the University’s #12daysofkindness campaign and has been a LinkedIn Learning Student Ambassador. She has also volunteered for projects and organisations such as UoC Student Consultants, Think Pacific, The Access Project, Unicef, as well as a local school.

She said: “I am very grateful to receive this prestigious award. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my volunteer work and I am determined to continue using my skillset to help make a difference to the lives of others."

Forensic Psychology student Bethany Skidmore, aged 21 and from Chester, volunteered for a total of 146 hours, spending time with the Chester Sexual Advice Support Service (CSASS).

She said: “It's an absolute privilege to receive this award. It's so lovely to be recognised for the work I've done for more vulnerable people in our community.”

Jo Morison, Volunteer and Mentoring Manager in Student Futures at the University, said: “The Valedictory awards provide a great opportunity to recognise some of the outstanding voluntary and community involvement that our students are engaged with, and we were thrilled to acknowledge so many worthy winners this year.

“After an especially difficult year, it’s been encouraging to see the spirit of the Citizen Student is still thriving at the University Chester, and our students should be proud of their remarkable achievements.”

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