AN ex-soldier, who survived tours of Afghanistan and a deadly outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone only to lose a leg in a works accident, has been rewarded for getting his life back on track.
Kieran Rodger has been rebuilding his life at Darlington College after a crane crushed his leg while he was working on overhead power cables on the railway.
The HNC engineering student celebrated with his partner Stacey Rushworth after winning the prestigious Principal’s Award, as a well as the Curriculum Managers’ accolade, at the annual Darlington College awards, staged at the town’s Hippodrome Theatre.
The 28-year-old spent six years in the infantry, serving in Afghanistan with 4 Rifles and was in daily contact with Afghan nationals; he went out on daily patrols not knowing where the next danger may lie.
Luckily after seven months away Kieran left Afghanistan unscathed. Then, serving with 3 Rifles, Kieran deployed on Operation Gritrock where he was sent to Sierra Leone as part of a contingent helping local people cope with an outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease, during which time one of the medical team caught the virus.
Kieran left the army in 2016 unscathed to work on the railways and study an engineering qualification at Darlington College when disaster struck.
“I was working away and had my leg crushed leading to an amputation,” he said. “I can’t say much more at the moment as an investigation is taking place.”
But according to lecturers at Darlington College Kieran has remained upbeat and was adamant that he would finish his HNC engineering course with the rest of the students.
“I served all over the world unharmed while some of my mates have been hurt so the irony of being injured at home didn’t escape me,” he said. “I didn’t think I would ever reach the position I’m in now, particularly when I was in hospital which were dark days.
“But with the support of my partner my journey has been incredible and the course and the lads on it have been fantastic. It has opened up a wide range of opportunities in more office-based work, project management, surveying and inspections and one day I hope to be able to launch my own businesses.”
He said he felt everyone on his course deserved the award not just him. “We have helped each other,” he said. “I have shared my life experiences but learned a lot from them. So I am really pleased and very grateful to accept the award for us all.”
Sharing the top awards was Olivia Ferguson who successfully undertook the level 3 technical extended diploma in health and social care. Olivia has autism and was unable to attend mainstream school for many years due to her health condition. But her hard work paid off and she gained an overall A* two years running.
Principal Kate Roe said the awards ceremony was one of her favourite events of the calendar but choosing the winners was among her most difficult tasks.
“I was looking for someone who shone in their studies but also showed qualities that had seen them overcome challenges in life, so I was hugely impressed by Kieran and Olivia,” she said.
Hosted by journalist and author Peter Barron, awards were also presented to full-time and part-time students in an array of courses ranging from English, engineering and automotive studies to journalism, art and design and computing.
He said: “Darlington College continues to transform lives thanks to the dedication of its staff.”
Governor Gary Hope added: “The college feels just right with its balance of lively students and purposeful activity.”