Ceremonies across the Grŵp’s campuses recognised the dedication and hard work of students who had successfully completed the intensive courses in a wide range of subjects at Coleg Llandrillo, Coleg Menai and Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor.
An Access to HE diploma provides a dynamic way of learning for students who want to study at a university level but may not have the qualifications required, or have been out of education for some time.
Courses offered at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai are Art & Design, Construction and the Built Environment, Bioscience, Health Care, Humanities & Social Sciences, Policing, Science and Social Sciences.
Many of those who apply for the one-year courses have jobs, school-age children, or may be unable to travel for further or higher education for other reasons.
Students who have completed this year’s courses are going on to study degrees as varied as midwifery, adult nursing, mental health nursing, dental hygiene, primary teaching, psychology, counselling, biomedical science, art and design, speech and language therapy, theatre set design, pharmacology, law, international business and finance, criminology, gaming and media, English literature and marine biology.
The successes of this year’s cohort were recognised at award ceremonies in Bangor, Rhos and Rhyl - and there were special awards for the ‘Access Learner of the Year’ from each campus.
Carly Edge won the award for Coleg Llandrillo’s Rhos campus after achieving the maximum 45 distinctions in her Health Care diploma, having had a double lung transplant four and a half years ago.
The 34-year-old from Deganwy is going on to study a nursing degree with Glyndŵr University in St Asaph, after being inspired by the help she has received from healthcare professionals.
She said: “I’ve had such wonderful nurses and doctors my whole life from the age of seven, and I’d like to be able to help people the same way. I’ve had to wait a long time until I was healthy enough to even be able to think about doing a course and giving it my all.
“Coming to college to do the Access course has been amazing in terms of learning new skills and preparing me for university. It got me back into the swing of actually learning.
“I’ve learned massively how to manage my time, and have learned new skills such as writing essays, and how to research what I’ve been learning about. Also I’ve learned how to reference, which I’d never done in my life, but I’m definitely going to need that going on to university.”
Robyn Clement won the Access Learner of the Year award for Coleg Menai after achieving the maximum 45 distinctions in her Health Care Diploma - equivalent to three A* grades at A-Level.
The mum of two from Llangefni qualified as a dental nurse in 2016, and continued while following the full-time course. She is now going on to study dental hygiene at Bangor University, and hopes to study dental therapy and possibly to become a dentist.
She said: “I had very little belief in myself to be honest but I said to myself, ‘I can do this’, and I can’t believe I’ve come out with distinctions.
“I did it to make my girls proud of me. I’ve got two daughters aged 11 and eight, and for them to see me being presented with the award meant a lot. The first thing they said to me after I came off stage was how proud they were of me.
“It was quite intense, with a lot of long evenings and sacrificing weekends, but it’s been worth it. It was a good class, a lovely bunch of women and we were very good at helping each other on.”
She had this advice for anyone thinking of applying for an Access course: “Even if you don’t believe you can do it, just take that first step and it’ll be worth it.”
Amanda Anderson, who was Access Learner of the Year for the Abergele, echoed that advice, saying don’t let anything stop you from following your dreams.
She is going on to study a mental health nursing degree with Glyndŵr University after also achieving all distinctions in her Health Care diploma.
“I had the qualifications to go to uni but I’d been out of education for 30 years,” she said. “The course turned out to be really valuable in terms of getting me back into doing academic work.
“If I can do it at 53 then anyone can - don’t let your age put you off, because you’ve got nothing to lose.”
Jennifer Mackenzie, from St Asaph, was Access Learner of the Year award for Coleg Llandrillo’s Rhyl campus after also achieving all distinctions in her Health Care Diploma.
She is now going to Bangor University to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a midwife.
She said: “After I had my two children it made me remember why I’d wanted to become a midwife, and after my second boy was born I said ‘I’m going to do it’.
“I enjoyed the course. I really enjoyed learning new things, and I also enjoyed the social side of it, meeting new people. We had a nice group and made some great friendships.”
Jennifer worked part-time as a healthcare assistant during her course to gain experience of working in a hospital environment.
After receiving two offers of university places, she has accepted her first choice and will study midwifery at Bangor from September.
She said: “It’s going to be amazing, something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s going to mean the world to me.”
At the Rhyl ceremony, other awards for excellent progress and work were given to Chloe Pritchard, Katie Bibb, Melanie Hughes-Roberts, Lily McEvoy, Robyn Hulley and Katie Bradshaw.
Conor Merrick, Programme Area Manager for A Levels, Access, Business & Education for Coleg Llandrillo said: "Access to Higher Education courses are fundamental to shaping learners' futures and can be life-changing.
“All learners who complete this course should be very proud as it is an intensive course which perfectly sets them up for the next step at University.”
Melanie Edwards, Programme Leader for Sociology A Levels/Access to Higher Education at Llandrillo 6th, said: “Some of our access learners begin the course many years after leaving school and some have never even switched on a computer before.
“Others join the Access course to have a change in career and it opens up many pathways for them. It is so rewarding to see them develop in skills and confidence throughout the course, and we are all very proud of them.”
Learner Support and pastoral care is available for all students, as well as help for those who qualify for assistance with childcare.
For more information about Access to Higher Education Diplomas at Coleg Llandrillo, Coleg Menai and Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, click here.