A GUIDE dog and a proud dad who made a 4,000-mile trip to Wearside where among the audience at a special student celebration.
The Stadium of Light played host as 120 students graduated from Sunderland College.
During the event there was a special presentation of 21 awards to some of the college’s adult learners who were recognised for their hard work and dedication.
Among them was Craig Blackbird, 34, who graduated from his HND Business and Management course and won the award for best performance in business, leadership and management.
Craig, from Houghton, is visually impaired and collected his award with his trusted guide dog, Commando, who accompanied him to all his lectures at the college.
He said: “I was truly surprised to even be nominated for an award, and just as surprised to win it.
“For a moment after my name was called I wasn’t sure I’d heard properly.
“I am thrilled to have successfully completed the course and to have graduated.”
Craig, who is now studying a business top-up degree at the University of Sunderland, is a Guide Dogs volunteer speaker and his career ambition is to work in a role where he can help other people who are living with sight loss.
Another award winner, Muhammad Sheikh, was thrilled that his father, Arif, made the trip from Pakistan to see him graduate and also pick up the award for outstanding performance by an international student.
Other award winners including business administration apprentice, Philip Heckles, 29, who picked up the Heather Park award for pre-employment student of the year, and Jill Dawson, who collected the award for outstanding community venue, on behalf of the Adult, Family and Community Learning area, based within Academy 360’s Achievement Centre in Pennywell.
Jill said: “The nomination itself sent a ripple of pride throughout the centre.
“However, actually winning the award, as one of our young students pointed out, was ‘awesome’.
“Everyone who attends the centre, each in their own unique and individual way, makes it outstanding.
“Academy 360 is very proud to be recognised in this way and it confirms our vision for being proactive within our community, which is going from strength-to-strength with support of high quality partnerships.”
Presenting the evening, Sunderland College principal Anne Isherwood said: “The annual awards and graduation evening is always a fantastic event as we mark an important point in our students’ lives and officially recognise their hard work and success.
“As principal of the college, It is always a proud moment to watch our adult learners graduate and to personally congratulate them on their achievements.”