AoC student winners: what the accolade means to them

This week, we share the stories of award-winning students Esha Mumtaz and Jonathan Morris

Kate Parker

AoC's student winners: what the awards means to them

Earlier this month, we featured the stories of Sam Beckett and Matthew Moir, both of whom had walked away with awards at this year's Association of College (AoC) Student of the Year Awards. While Beckett was a joint winner of the adult student of the year gong, Moir was named the apprentice of the year.

Today, we share the stories of two other awarding winner students: Esha Mumtaz and Jonathan Morris. 

Like Beckett and Moir, Mumtaz and Morris have overcome significant challenges, and have gone on to succeed above and beyond expectations at their respective colleges. 

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Background: Meet two award-winning college students

Esha Mumtaz, 19, winner of the young student of the year AoC award 

Esha Mumtaz

Esha Mumtaz is studying health and social care at level 3 at Stockport College. 

At the awards ceremony, teacher Michelle Mclaughlin said Esha had so much drive from day one.  

She said: “I first met Esha when she arrived at college and she showed, even in those days, drive and determination. She’s completely in touch in terms of what she’s doing in the community.” 

What did winning an AoC student of the year award mean to you?

“It’s an honour for me to win this prestigious award,” she says. “The competition was very hard and I’m glad I’ve made my parents and college proud. I’ve been featured by the BBC and interviewed by many news channels in Pakistan. 

“By winning this award, I want to inspire other students to give their best and never lose hope. When I came from Pakistan three years ago, I had to start from square one as my qualifications were not recognised here. Since then, I have always tried to get out of my comfort zone to learn, grow and become a better person. I love this quote: ‘Wherever life puts you, bloom with grace’.”

Describe your experience at college – why do you think you were nominated and shortlisted for the award?

“When I started college three years ago, I was very shy. The college staff and teachers have always encouraged and appreciated my little efforts, and my self-esteem has grown so much. They made me believe in myself and that I was capable of great things. 

“There is always so much going on in the college for students to get involved in and I decided to become a student ambassador. My communication and public-facing skills drastically improved as a result, and I went on to become a course leader and an equalities council leader. The roles built my confidence so much, and I decided to stand for one of the student governor roles and was elected.

“In all of these roles, I’ve developed interpersonal and leadership skills, and learnt the importance of serving the community. I’ve volunteered in a care home for elderly people and in a hospital during the pandemic. I wanted to help during these unprecedented times and could not think of a better way of doing it.

“Before Covid, I was volunteering as an Esol tutor in a local library where I helped adults to learn English as their second or third language. My personal development has improved so much thanks to my colleges’ support and I’ve been able to put the learnt skills into practice.” 

What motivates you in your college course or workplace?

“My parents and teachers always motivate me to give my best. My mentors at college continue to inspire me and never let me lose faith in myself. Everything I’ve achieved so far would not have been possible without their support. The most precious gift my college has given me is self-awareness: I never knew how capable I was and how much potential I had until I joined college. The endless opportunities and support provided by them has made me challenge my limits and continue to strive and thrive every day.”  

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

In future, I want to continue volunteering in different places, so that I am always learning something new as well as making a positive difference in the community. My dream is to coach students to become the very best versions of themselves. I want to inspire and motivate them to chase their dreams, support them to break their mental limitations and boost their skills, and help them to plan ways to prosper and flourish in their fields.”

Jonathan Morris, 22, winner of the higher education student of the year at the AoC awards

Jonathan Morris

Jonathan Morris is a HND media student at Walsall College. 

At the awards ceremony, his teacher, Melissa Tisdale, said he was an “absolute star”.

She said: “When he was on level 3, that’s when he started literally shining, like the absolute star he is, and that’s when opportunities started coming his way.” 

What did winning an AoC Student of the Year award mean to you?

“Growing up with hemiplegia cerebral palsy, I've always struggled with self-doubt as I've always felt so far behind the other people in my age group,” says Jonathan. “Therefore, winning the AoC award helps to diminish some of that doubt that I feel, and acts as confirmation that I can achieve and have a career in the media industry. It is a real boost in confidence as it symbolises what I – and others with cerebral palsy – can achieve.” 

Describe your experience at college – why do you think you were nominated and shortlisted for the award?

“I have a genuine passion for the media industry, specifically post-production. Therefore, I've always tried my best to take on as many opportunities given to me in order to advance my skill set in editing. I’ve worked for Co-op Travel and the NHS, and both have given me invaluable real-world experience. They each presented their own challenges that I had to overcome, and I think that will ultimately make me a better industry professional in the future. I think that perhaps the reason I was nominated was that I have a clear idea of the path I want to go down, and I like to think that I have taken advantage of every opportunity that will get me further along that path.”

What motivates you in your college course or workplace?

“I have a relentless desire to learn as much as I can about editing and, more broadly, filmmaking. I want to use moving image as a way to share new perspectives on important topics, giving people a voice. I think film is the perfect medium to do this, this is ultimately my goal, and is what motivates me to carry on and to continue learning at college to develop my skill set.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

When leaving college, I plan to have a career in post-production, freelancing or possibly editing for a production company. My dream would be to become a documentary editor as I think that documentary is an incredible medium for exploring important subject matters, therefore I am naturally drawn towards it. I would also like to continue working on my YouTube channel “Ability Street”, improving the content and, ultimately, creating a selection of content that really helps people with disabilities but also helps change perceptions of disability as a whole.

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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