THE pandemic generation celebrated in style after graduating from college with their heads held high.
Darlington College’s Class of 22 showed their mettle as they collected their honours at a spectacular graduation ceremony at the Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel.
Scores of students were presented with their awards, ranging from foundation degrees to higher national diplomas and certificates, by Darlington College principal Kate Roe and Teesside University’s pro-vice chancellor Mark Simpson.
For student Eleanor Buck, of Barnard Castle, it was a proud moment as she delivered the valedictory speech on behalf of the students.
She told a packed house of family and friends: “I feel so grateful to represent the Class of 22. This has been no small feat to graduate in a time of pandemic, where most of our lessons were online and our social life was non-existent. This shows that we can achieve anything we put our minds to whatever we face in the future.
“The staff have been an inspiration to us all and I think we have grown in resilience and have realised that to show weakness is not a bad thing and can be a strength. I’d also like to thank our parents for their support and certainly my mam and dad who introduced the notion that hard work really does pay off.”
The 22-year-old former Teesdale School pupil was presented with a foundation degree in early years after gaining a distinction. Currently a teaching assistant at Tudhoe Moor School, Spennymoor, she is due to start teacher training next year.
“I have always wanted to be a teacher as I love seeing others achieve their very best,” she said. “I like to lead so one day would like to be a head teacher and I’m also very interested in special educational needs and disabilities.”
Ms Roe told graduates: “I went to university at 18 and didn’t give it a thought. But I realise now that it was much easier to do this at 18 before you have other commitments in life, like caring for children and families. So I am in awe of how you have been able to do this and it is very humbling and inspiring. You will be able to reap the rewards of the investment you have made in yourselves.
“I hope you will talk about your experiences, encourage others to do what you have done and pass on your knowledge. You never know where your career will take you and I’d urge you to never stop learning.”
Prof Simpson added: “The last few years have been very difficult and you should be very proud as you look towards the future. Your achievements also reflect the dedication and hard work of staff who have guided you on your journey.”