Grace Prestwood

AN INSPIRATIONAL @OldhamCollege student who has battled serious illness has been shortlisted for a top national accolade.

Grace Prestwood has been named as one of just three finalists who are in the running for the Association of Colleges’ (AOC) Young Student of the Year award (ages 16-18)*.

After starting her Level 2 Media Make Up studies at Oldham College last year, Grace quickly stood out as a high achiever due to her creativity, focus and self-motivation – but she was set to endure a turbulent time.

Grace fell ill during her studies and – after doctors had initially struggled to identify the cause – she was eventually diagnosed with cancer.

Many students might understandably have opted to put their course on hold but she was determined to continue and have a successful year.

Grace underwent chemotherapy treatment and is now in recovery, but battled through to finish her qualification showing a trademark optimism and smile that amazed fellow learners and staff.

She won last year’s students' Christmas makeup competition, and is also giving something back to the hospital that helped her by organising a makeup masterclass for other young people undergoing cancer treatment.

Continuing to study from her Moston home despite these challenges – and adapting to the disruption to learning caused by COVID-19 – marked Grace out as an exceptional student and obvious candidate for recognition.

Diane Howard, Oldham College’s Head of Faculty for Retail and Commercial, said:

“From my point of view, she is ‘Amazing Grace’ – and she certainly lives up to that name.”

"The 2019-20 academic year has been such a significant one for any young person in education, but Grace has tackled it all so well.

“At such a young age to cope with COVID-19, lockdown and online learning while undergoing long and debilitating treatment – and remaining positive and focused throughout – is so impressive.

"She has been, and remains, an inspiration to all our staff and learners. We are so proud that her commitment and efforts have been recognised – Grace is already a winner in our eyes.” 

The Association of Colleges’ Student of the Year awards celebrate the achievements of exceptional individuals from colleges across England.

They highlight truly unique students who have not just overcome adversity or who are naturally gifted. Finalists have used their achievements and talents to give back and positively impact their college and/or community.

Sally Dicketts, President of the AoC, said:

“The standard of entries this year was incredibly high and all the nominated students deserve praise for the contribution they make to their Colleges.

"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 annual conference.”

The award winners will be revealed on February 8, 2021 at the AoC's Annual Conference. This event showcases the ways that colleges are transforming the lives of more than two million people across England and how vital colleges are to the future of the British economy in the 21st century.

The judging panel was made up of members of the AoC Charitable Trust Board, AoC President and chaired by Kirsti Lord (AoC Deputy Chief Executive-Member Services).

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