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Fife Adult Learner Awards 2013

2013 saw the 16th year of Fife Adult Learners Awards.  This hugely popular event provides an opportunity for learners across Fife to come together with family, friends and those involved in delivering learning opportunities in local communities to celebrate their achievements and share stories about their learning journey.

Here are some of the stories we heard from this year’s winners:

Lynn Emslie, Literacy Award Winner 2013

al-fala-13-lit-awd-lynn-esmlieOur Literacy Learning Award goes to someone who has been attending the ‘Literacies for Life Group’ since June 2010, her lack of confidence in herself meant she found it very difficult to interact with others in the group. Her experience at school was extremely negative, she attended the Special Needs support unit, had undiagnosed dyslexia, and suffered low self-esteem. She left school with no qualifications and very poor reading skills and was told, that because she was slow and found it hard to learn, she would not get on much further.

For her taking the decision to come to the Literacies group to work on her basic skills was a major step forward (very brave). Despite initially feeling extremely nervous and anxious she said that she was hoping that maybe by coming to the group she could become a little more confident.  Her reading skills have improved greatly, she is now attending her local library and is able to go into the local café and read the menu, and read at home with her mum.

She is really encouraging to new group members and is a real inspiration to the others who, over the past year, have watched her grow in confidence and self-belief. Every week she takes homework away with her to help develop and continue to improve her reading skills.  She has now achieved her SQA Level 2 in Communications and at Christmas time achieved her Level 2 in Numeracy and wants to develop her communication skills to work towards her level 3.

Lauren Shields, Personal Achievement Award Winner 2013

al-fala-13-pa-awd-lauren-sheildsA policeman once told her parents that although she was a lovely, beautiful and intelligent young lady, she would be dead by the time she was 21. Now, at the age of 29, she is attending college and achieving what she should have all those years ago. Her strength of character and resolve is incredible.

She was described at high school as a girl who was quiet, shy, clever and never got into trouble. By the time she was 16 however all that had changed and much to the shock of everyone who knew her, she was a heroin addict, choosing this life to escape severe depression. She wasted 12 years of her life on heroin. The turning point came when she was living alone and was robbed at knifepoint. She made the terrifying decision to leave her destructive drug addicted life behind her and sought help. She started on a methadone programme and hasn’t looked back since.

With the support of her SACRO worker she moved into her own house and stepped through the doors of the Adam Smith College in Leven and is now addicted to education!

Enrolling on the Step-In course which supports people back into education. On her first day she was so nervous she had to bring her SACRO worker with her. On this course she had a variety of classes and achieved First Aid and Overdose Awareness certificates. She was also one of the few who graduated with 100% attendance. With more confidence she joined Stepping Stones, a flexible literacy and numeracy learning course, on her days off.

Within only a few weeks, she achieved her first numeracy qualification. Since then she has achieved other qualifications in numeracy and communication and is currently working on maths which she loves. She has now also enrolled with a flexible IT class and doing really well.

Her tutor says” “She is an absolute pleasure to teach and one of the reasons my job is so worthwhile. She is always positive and enthusiastic about learning and is a great example to other people. She is always willing to help other learners and promotes the college at every opportunity she gets. She also uses her new skills outside college and helps her niece and nephew with their homework. She never takes any of this for granted and takes photos and writes about her learning experiences as they are so special to her”.  Her achievements have not gone unnoticed, she has been in the local press and on the college website. SACRO published her journey in their paper as an example of a success story and the social work department have had her photographed for a Courier article.

Stephanie Carrie, Young Learner Award Winner 2013

al-fala-13-yl-awd-stephanie-carrieOne of the tutors of the Young Learner describes her as “highly motivated to do well and to provide a good future for her children.  She is a fantastic role model for other young parents and will be a great role model for her children.”

Interested in getting back into education and encouraged and supported by her tutor she completed her application to return to college to do Highers. She was accepted on the course, however, before she was due to start, she fell pregnant with her second child, but she was determined to do the course and worked out that the baby would be born around the October holiday time.  She convinced the college that she would be able to keep up the work required, taking only a couple of weeks off around the birth.  During this time she got her own tenancy and moved to Glenrothes, again not an easy thing to do as a lone parent with little support.  September came and despite being 7 ½ months pregnant, travelling from Glenrothes to Kirkcaldy and having a one year old to look after, she started her college course.  She progressed well with childcare support from the baby’s dad.

She continued to bring her wee girl to the teen parent group at Glenrothes weekly and took part in a "Mellow Bumps" course at Kirkcaldy teen parent group which lasted 6 weeks. Her second baby was born at that time and she attended the last week with her new baby.  Everyone was delighted and amazed!  She returned to College after the holidays and continued her studies. She has been a model pupil and has even been asked by one of her tutors if she would be interested in helping out at an adult education class - she obviously has impressed her tutors greatly.

Unfortunately just as things were going really well, her childcare situation became difficult, but she spoke to the college who agreed she should drop one of the Highers and pick it up again next year.  This still keeps her on track for the Highers she needs to do the University Degree of her choice.  She continues to attend three teen parent groups a week, giving her children a variety of activities and socialisation opportunities and other teen parents have remarked how amazing they think she is.

She is a highly motivated and mature teen parent and as a result of her motivation another of the group in Glenrothes has started an Open University Course and two have applied for college courses starting this summer. Truly an inspiration to other teen parents.

Isabella Ford, Mature Learner Award Winner 2013

al-fala-13-ml-awd-lsobel-fordThe Mature Learner Award goes to someone who has been attending the ‘Literacies for Life Group’ since October 2010. At that time, she would often say that she would not be able to learn anything as she has never been able to learn anything. Her experience at school was extremely negative; she attended the Special Needs support unit at school where she felt she received very little support. Feeling stupid, she left school with no qualifications and attended various support groups before attending Adult Basic Education.

A major step forward and the first step on the road to adult learning was to  come to the Literacies group to work on her basic skills and to focus on her numeracy in an environment where she feels she can learn and progress.  It has taken her a bit of time to settle into the group and she was always scared that she was going to get into trouble if she did “something wrong”. This first step of entering ABE has helped her overcome a real fear of the learning environment. She has grown in confidence; and has gone from strength to strength, (she still needs to be encouraged that she isn’t going to get into trouble) Her numeracy skills have improved greatly and at the beginning of last year she achieved her SVQ level 2 in Numeracy and has now completed her SVQ level 3, the first qualifications she has ever received.

As part of her ever growing confidence she now fully interacts with other group members and has made a number of new friends. 

Kenneth Aitken, Volunteering Award Winner 2013

al-fala-13-vol-awd-kenneth-aitkenHis tutor said “I believe that if there were more of us with the same spirit as him then the world would be a far better place to be!”

His story begins before he was born. He was delivered early by emergency caesarean section. He thrived and seemed to be developing normally at first, however, there were feeding difficulties and he seemed unable to hold a spoon properly. From that time on other problems became apparent and as he got older he was further behind academically.

He attended Auchentoshan School in East Dunbartonshire for youngsters with learning difficulties and later did a 2 years course for young people at Clydebank Technical College. At 18, he began a Youth Training Scheme at Low’s supermarket, Milngavie, and 2 years later he was offered a permanent position, linked with Remploy. With his family he moved to Fife in 1997, and began working with Safeway in St Andrews. He is still there today.

His mother contacted Adam Smith College 2 years ago seeking support for him to improve his reading skills.  Although there were doubts about how much progress he would make, his reading and speech have improved which is important to him and gives him more confidence in class and at work. He is an enthusiastic student, willing to apply himself to any task. He has barely missed a day and his attitude is first class. He always comes in with a big smile on his face and is well liked by everyone in the class.

He is also actively involved in a great deal of charity work, including Blythswood Care, helping with the annual appeal throughout the autumn and his boxes are sent to Eastern Europe to desperately poor people.

He makes a monthly financial contribution to Mary’s Meals and helps with their Backpack Appeal, filling schoolbags with appropriate items which are sent to African schools for children who receive the meals.

Whinnybank Cat Sanctuary, Fairtrade, Dogstrust, the Devon Donkey Sanctuary and Redwings Horse Sanctuary are other charities that he supports.

Nothing holds him back, he has gained First Aid certificates and achieved modified Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh Scheme awards through the Tuesday Club in Milngavie and he is a valuable member of our community. 

An inspiration to all who meet him!

Men’s Self Esteem Group, Group Award Winners 2013

al-fala-13-group-awd1A group of strangers had to overcome depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and extreme shyness to even attend the first session of their course in October 2012. The 6 week programme challenged them to examine the root causes, beliefs and behaviours that had, over the years, contributed to their low self esteem.  They came from a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances, but over the weeks they supported each other through this challenging process and shared their life experiences. As the weeks progressed the men actively began challenging each other in a supportive way to continue to move forward, and also in recognising how far they had already come.

In January 2013 they began a 6 week Personal Development course and have continued to grow both individually and as a group, they have challenged themselves and each other to face the causes of their current thinking or circumstances. The group spent time looking in great detail at their aspirational levels, and for all of them this was the first time they have ever truly recognised what their dreams and ambitions are. At the same time they identified and addressed the perceived barriers to those ambitions and developed the tools and resilience necessary to break those barriers down.

Progress on the course is measured, in part, by the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, (this is a recognised research tool which uses specific questions to attribute a numerical value to an individual’s mental wellbeing). Throughout this process they have all shown a marked improvement in their W.E.M.W.S.  Of the three learners who were unemployed at the start of the process, all are engaged in further adult education programmes; two are now seeking volunteering opportunities and the third is in the early stages of establishing his own business.  The fourth learner, who was in employment, is now seeking further training and professional development. The group are intending to remain in contact and continue to provide each other with a supportive environment.          

All the men are much more relaxed and far more positive about themselves and their lives.