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Dedicated college student makes final of prestigious national awards

Hugh Baird College student, Malcolm Thwala, has been named as a finalist in the Adult Student of the Year Category of the Association of Colleges (AoC) Student of the Year awards.

The AoC Student of the Year awards gather nominations from College’s from across the UK and judges commented on the extremely high standard of entries this year.

Malcolm came to the UK from Zimbabwe in 2013. On arriving in Liverpool, Malcom didn’t know anyone and felt he lacked purpose and direction. Rather than accept his situation, he decided to act and took the brave step to attend his local youth club in Toxteth called FireFit Hub. After two years at the club, Malcolm began volunteering at the Centre. He was keen to make others in his area aware of the positive opportunities that were available to them. He began training people in the gym and encouraged club members to play football rather than hanging around on the streets or becoming involved with gangs.

As his confidence grew, Malcom decided it was time for him to further develop his own skills and he joined Hugh Baird College in 2017. He completed Levels 2 and 3 in Motor Vehicle Engineering while simultaneously improving his GCSE grades. As well as studying hard, Malcom threw himself in to College life and was an active member of the College’s Student Council and the College’s football team.

Despite his ever increasing workload, Malcom continued to be influential and positive figure at the FireFit Hub and joined the Centre’s YouthBod team. The Team’s work is focussed on devising strategies that encourage hard to reach young people to engage with the Centre’s services instead of turning to crime, gangs and other anti-social behaviours.

Not one to stand still, Malcolm also became involved in a charity group called Savera UK. Based in Toxteth, the charity works with female ethnic minority groups to support them through domestic abuse and forced marriages. Last year, Malcolm produced a short film based on the work of the charity which he then presented at a national Youth Conference held at Liverpool’s ACC Conference Centre. As a result of this, his work is touring local schools to help raise awareness of social issues.

Through his charity and awareness raising work with the Savera Charity and his social inclusion work with the FireFit Hub, Malcom decided to alter his direction at College. In September this year, he enrolled on an Access to Higher Education qualification in Health and Social Care. His long term ambition is to move on to University before gaining employment in a role that makes a lasting difference to people’s lives and the society in which they live in.

Upon hearing the news that he had been named as a finalist and that he would be attending a glitzy awards ceremony on Tuesday, 19th November in Birmingham, Malcom said:

It is a great honour to have been even nominated for this award, but I was amazed to hear that I’d been named as a finalist. I don’t think of the work I do is anything out of the ordinary, I just believe in doing the right thing and helping people wherever I can.

My mother is a real inspiration to me and I hope that this news makes her proud of me. I would also like to thank the staff at Hugh Baird College for believing in me, supporting me and for giving me so many opportunities to improve myself.

Yana Williams, Hugh Baird College Principal and Chief Executive, added:

Malcom is an extremely driven yet humble student. The positivity he contributes to our College and his local community is remarkable and I am delighted that his efforts have been recognised on a national stage. He is a hugely popular figure here at the College with staff and students alike and I’m certain that we will all be rooting for him on the night of the awards ceremony.

Steve Frampton, President of the Association of Colleges, said:

It is inspiring to hear the stories from a range of students and colleges each year and the awards are an opportunity to highlight their outstanding achievements. The finalists this year have done fantastically well to reach this stage and I look forward to seeing them all at the awards evening at annual conference.

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