INSPIRATIONAL adult learners and their tutors picked up a host of awards at an emotional ceremony.
Sunderland’s Family Adult & Community Learning Awards saw dedicated students and their mentors rewarded for their hard work.
The event, at the Marriott Hotel, in Seaburn, celebrated achievement by people of all circumstances and backgrounds.
Among the winners was the Salvation Army’s Swan Lodge life house, which picked up the award for Provider of the Year.
Judges were impressed by the range of training offered to residents, including a tenancy qualification, which equips them with skills needed for independent living.
Christine Tait manages the base in High Street East, where the motto is “dreams can come true”.
Wiping away tears, she said: “This is one of the biggest surprises, because we never win anything like this.
“I’d like to say thank you from the lads, the trainers and the staff.”
Swan Lodge resident Stephen Kimberley gave an emotional speech to the audience.
He told them how, aged 12, he became a full-time carer for his mother and made homeless after she died.
After coming to live at Swan Lodge, he found work and gained a place at college. He now hopes to go on to university.
Now 24, Stephen said: “None of this would have been possible without the encouragement and support of Swan Lodge staff and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
Also battling personal problems on the road to learning was George Wilson.
The shy 59-year-old was taken under the wing of tutors at Sunderland North Family Zone in Hylton Castle.
He went on to turn his life around and achieve qualifications in reading and writing. He was named Inspirational Learner at the ceremony.
Centre manager Linda Procopis said: “George came to us three years ago and was very, very shy. His confidence has been built for the last few years and now we can’t imagine opening the doors (to the centre) without George coming in.”
Outstanding tutors were also handed gongs for their good work. These were: Cate Blatherwick, from Youth Development; Craig Boyes, Age UK; Sarah Butler, EBC; James Watling, Fathers Plus; Ross McNeilly, Foundation of Light; Michael Erskine, FACL and Andrea Mather, Bridge.
The annual Sunderland Adult and Family Learning Awards were developed to celebrate the achievements of adult learners in Sunderland.
They were set up in 2008 after it was discovered there were no awards specifically showcasing the talent, efforts and successes of adult learners in the city.