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This year’s Valedictory ceremony was held at St Thomas of Canterbury Church, near the University’s Parkgate Road Campus. The annual University service and celebration saw a number of students recognised for their outstanding accomplishments academically, while others were recognised for their admirable voluntary work, sporting success, contributions to the community and University life.

Anthony Parker, the University’s Academic Secretary, said: “At Valedictory we celebrate and recognise the contributions our students make to every aspect of life, from academic achievements through to sporting prowess and community involvement.”

Among the awards and winners were:

Five students, who received the Ede and Ravenscroft Award for Excellence, which recognises students who have performed outstandingly outside of their academic subject:

  • Hannah Kettleton, Mental Health Nursing (who is based at the Warrington Campus) - Hannah has been an integral part of creating and maintaining the Dementia Buddies programme with Warrington Wolves, in which she assists people living with dementia to home games. She also trains other volunteers in the role and helps co-ordinate the day. Hannah also identified that many of the attendees were cold during the winter so she did some fundraising to purchase blankets, flasks, scarves and hats. She has also helped with other activities at the University such as the Chasing the Stigma Hub of Hopeathon and various fundraising activities for Hope View Sensory Farm.
  • Sophie Rushworth, Dance: In addition to achieving some of the highest marks in her class, Sophie’s outstanding extracurricular performance has included: organising the Winter Dance Showcase, a student-organised evening-length dance performance in December 2018; volunteering and performing at the NOW Dance Showcase, co-produced with the University’s Department of Performing Arts in collaboration with Cheshire Dance. Sophie was part of the Pina Bausch Nelken film project that has been screened worldwide. She is also a volunteer teaching Dance at Upton-by-Chester Secondary School.
  • Stephen Davies, Physics with Materials Science: Mature student, Stephen, entered the University with a non-traditional academic background and has worked hard to ensure he always meets or exceeds the necessary academic standards in his work. However, it is outside his academic subject where he stands out as a unique performer in terms of volunteering across a very wide range of activities.  These include: working as an assistant instructor at Elite Martial Arts (self-defence classes), where he volunteers anything between one and six hours per week; volunteering at several local charities and not-for-profit organisations, including 1st Denbigh Cub Scouts; Vale of Clwyd Angling Club; Marie Curie Cancer Charity; and the Welsh Blood Service (promoting blood donation). Stephen is also a qualified drill instructor, and helps out at the 1918 (Ruthin) Squadron Air Training Corps (ATC). He is also a community sports leader for archery.
  • Lois Georgina Brookes-Jones, International Relations and Politics: Lois is a young human rights activist studying at the University. Outside of her studies, she has been involved in a lot of projects and organisations including (but not limited to!):
    • Romani Rights Activist
    • Representative for GRT (Gypsy, Roma and Traveller) rights at the Roma Women's Conference in Helsinki ⠀
    • GATEHerts (Gypsy and Traveller Empowerment Hertfordshire) GRT Report Racism Ambassador (representing GRT youth at political events surrounding council decisions and policy)
    • European YWCA Representative for the European Youth Forum (working towards sustaining and pursuing women’s rights within Europe)
    • Women's Representative on the Student Council
    • Course representative for the first year International Relations course.
      Lois was nominated by her Head of Department, Paul Taylor, who commented that Lois has shown outstanding courage and is an impressive ambassador, not just for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller rights, but for the University of Chester as whole. ⠀
  • Daniel Robert Branch, Learning Disability Nursing: Daniel is a student representative and also goes out of his way to ensure that his fellow students are well both in person and online. In addition, he is a Student Quality Ambassador (SQA), and a student peer mentor, helping first year students adapt and settle into university life. Daniel is President of Devability - the University’s Disability Student Society - which seeks to support and empower disabled students at the University.

Outside of university, Daniel is a Samaritan listener, helping and listening to people in states of great distress. He also helps to train new prospective Samaritan listeners. Daniel also works with his local church, St John the Baptist, doing lots of work in the community. Daniel is part of the Meols community choir, which has raised thousands of pounds for charity by giving concerts.

The Kirsty Craig Associates Award for Enterprise: which was won by Khairol Nizam Bin Mansor from Malaysia, who studies Engineering Management. The Shah Jalal Mosque in Chester has been used by the Muslim community for prayer and other Islamic activities. Khairol came up with the idea to grow a herb garden on the land around the mosque by volunteering. Eventually, he gathered volunteers from the University of Chester, combined with the Shah Jalal Mosque organisation, and worked hard to revitalise the landscape of the mosque and turn it into a herb garden.

The project started with two people but is now growing with participation from students at the University and the local community. Currently, they plant various herbs such as turmeric, ginger, coriander and others. The volunteers can learn about growing, tending, harvesting and selling the herbs to local Asian shops.

The following students received an Outstanding Contribution to Community Award:

  • Steph Taylor, Digital Photography with Radio Production (who is based at the Warrington Campus) – Steph volunteers for the University’s volunteering scheme, as a peer mentor, student ambassador, student experience rep, for the Chester Students’ Union Wheelchair Basketball team, the Cheshire and Warrington Carers Trust, Cheshire Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Club, and Maggie’s Cancer Charity.
  • Tracey Smith, Forensic Physiology – Tracey has volunteered for more than 530 hours, for the Cheshire Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust (Scott Clinic); The Shannon Trust. She is also a University peer mentor, higher education mentor and student experience rep.
  • Sophie Hillier, Law – Sophie volunteers for the Youth Advisory Group; Youth Commission; Labour Party; Smear on Demand Campaign; Liverpool Legal; and Citizens Advice.
  • Emily-Jayne Clarke, Bioveterinary Science – Emily-Jayne volunteers for Girl Guiding, and as a student peer mentor, student experience rep, as well as for the Bioveterinary Society.
  • Stephen Davies, Physics with Materials Science – Stephen (who also won an Ede and Ravenscroft award above) volunteers for Elite Marshall Arts, 1st Denbigh Scouts, Denbigh Town Carnival, Vale of Clwyd Angling Club, RAF Cadets, Marie Curie, Students as Recruiters; as well as the University StARs and the STEM Society.
  • Rebecca Brett, Natural Hazard Management with Inter Development Studies – Rebecca has volunteered for a stunning total of 720 hours. She has volunteered for Slaley First School; SPACE (Sensory Play Areas for Chester and Ellesmere Port); British Red Cross; and has previously volunteered for the CSU Barbershop Singers Society. She is also a University of Chester student peer mentor; student experience rep; and Geography mentor. Rebecca has recently started volunteering for UKYCC (UK Youth Climate Coalition), helping to organise the UK’s 2019 Youth Climate Conference this November.

Jo Morison, Mentoring Project Officer at the University, said: “The Valedictory awards provide a fantastic opportunity to recognise some of the outstanding voluntary and community involvement that our students are engaged with, and we were thrilled to award so many worthy winners this year.”

Among the awards and winners from the Warrington Campus were:

Hilary Tucker Prize: awarded to students who have made the greatest contribution to the Warrington Campus at the University of Chester.

The winners were:

  • Ryan Allen, Foundation Degree in Sports Coaching. Ryan has achieved success both academically and as a volunteer since his time at the Warrington Campus. He has been heavily involved in coaching young children with a local community club, Woolston Rovers, giving his time freely and determined to help them enjoy and improve in their rugby league skills.

Earlier this academic year, Ryan began a one-year internship with the England Handball Association. He continues to undertake this role alongside his studies with the aim of growing the profile of handball locally and bridging school club links in Warrington. He has also undertaken a work placement with a key local partner of ours, the Warrington Wolves Foundation. He is now working with Warrington Wolves and coaching in schools twice a week.

  • Ollie Murphy, MA Sports Coaching and Development. Ollie has progressed internally from his initial Foundation Degree in Sports Coaching, via BSc Sports Coaching to undertaking a postgraduate qualification.

Alongside his studies, Ollie represents the University through his role with the Warrington Wolves Foundation as a disability sports coach, where he delivers an inclusive sports coaching programme. Through this role, Ollie now mentors other students from the University on work based learning modules. Last year, he worked out in China coaching football for Tranmere Rovers FC.

Ollie has been a committed supporter of women's football on the Warrington Campus for a number of years and in addition to his studies and work commitments, he still finds time to coach the University Women's football team. He has also been a long serving member of the Men’s football team and a previous Captain of the first XI.

  • Rebecca Crawford: MA Social Work. As well as working hard on her academic studies, Rebecca has a ‘Unijob’ role on campus as an assistant to support members of the Social Work staff team with service user and carer involvement in the academic programmes.
    Service user and carer involvement can be a complex activity and Rebecca has spent much of her free time researching and developing her knowledge of this in order to support her role. Rebecca has established links with service users and carers across the local area and has encouraged and nurtured those contacts made.  
    Rebecca has also helped to establish a Foodbank ‘donation station’ and in her own time transported all the donated items to the Foodbank in Warrington. She has also supported the regular ‘Carers’ drop-in’ sessions in the University’s Chaplaincy – again much of this was in her spare time.
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