AN outdoor specialist led the way after taking the top accolade at an annual student awards ceremony.
Jake Fantarrow was presented with the prestigious Principal’s Award in a closely-run contest at Darlington College.
Principal Kate Roe told an audience of families and friends that the 18-year-old’s efforts to secure a work placement had impressed her the most.
She told guests at the Hullaballoo Theatre, Darlington: “This award is my most difficult decision of the year because how do you choose from so many great stories among the thousands of students we teach?
“But when I heard that Jake had secured 45 days of placement, when this isn’t even mandatory, and that he had then impressed the employer so much that they have kept him on, I knew he was worthy of the top prize.”
Jake, of Shildon, studied Level 3 outdoor leadership at Darlington College securing a placement with specialist firm Outdoor Ambition. At the end of the course owner Lloyd Murray offered him a job as an assistant instructor.
The course specialises in a range of activities designed to hone leadership skills including abseiling, gorge walking, canoeing, mountain biking and map reading, preparing them for work in a growth industry.
Jake, who wants to work as a ski instructor in the Alps one day, said: “We work with a lot of children outside mainstream education, taking them canoeing, gorge walking, climbing and hiking. They love it and we see a real difference in the students at the end of the day by which time they have become much calmer and contented.
“I have always loved the outdoors. My family had a house in Keswick in the Lake District and my dad is a climber and caver. It is brilliant and doesn’t feel like work. I was so surprised to win the top award and very pleased.”
Dozens of awards were handed out in each of the college’s curriculum areas recognising academic achievement, commitment and dedication to studies across a range of abilities and including apprenticeships.
Ms Roe said: “I’d also like to thank our hardworking staff who have supported learners and I know we are all very proud of the way the students have grown and developed. The feeling we get when we see our students achieve is the best feeling in the world. They have been enthusiastic, determined and positive and achieved great things. They should now take these qualities with them in whatever they do next.”
The ceremony was hosted by former editor and now freelance journalist and media consultant Peter Barron, himself a former student of the college. He said: “I had a fantastic time at Darlington College and it set me on a path to a life-long career in journalism.
“As the college celebrates 125 years this year it is so inspirational to look back over the decades to see what has been achieved by its students, who have been helped to learn, seize opportunities, secure good jobs and help others.”