Two Salford City College students have been awarded for excellence in their vocation at the National BTEC Awards 2017, with one student also being awarded Overall BTEC Student of the Year, the most prestigious award of the night.
Salford City College’s Leah Dean has been recognised as Outstanding BTEC IT Student of the Year whilst former student Maryam Taher was awarded Outstanding BTEC Science Student of the Year, as well as being chosen as Overall BTEC Student of the Year.
Judges were wowed by Maryam’s dedicated character, giving nature, the achievements she has made and the devotion she has shown both personally and academically, in her short 19 years. For that reason she was chosen, out of almost 1000 nominees, as Overall BTEC Student of the Year.
Both of the Salford students were awarded at a ceremony on 6 July 2017 at the remarkable and iconic Royal Horticultural Halls in London, following a lunch reception in Parliament with MPs from across the political spectrum.
Maryam, who last year studied a Level 3 Applied Science Extended Diploma at Salford City College has been described as ‘outstanding and formidable individual’ by staff in the College’s Science department.
Her success in the BTEC Science category isn’t the first victory the department has seen at the awards, which were hosted by Pearson’s, they also won BTEC Science Student of the Year in 2011, 2014 and 2015. But, Maryam is the first to win the coveted overall student accolade as well.
Chongwei Chua, Curriculum Manager for Science also said in his nomination to the BTEC Awards, “She embodies the pure essence of vocational excellence through her passion for science and its applications, her ability to add value to her community, and her selfless love for helping others despite her own extreme personal hardship.”
The high achiever, who now studies Biomedical Science and York University, fled from war torn Libya to the safety of Salford in 2011. She couldn’t speak a word of English at the time, was forced to leave her father and has since had to help support her mother in raising her younger brother, all whilst facing economic hardship.
Maryam with her mother and brother at the ceremony
But this didn’t stop Maryam achieving more than most her age. She left school with six A* - A grade GCSE’s, including an A* in English, a language she couldn’t speak just a couple of years prior.
As a student at Salford City College, Maryam found a new love of science and became devoted to the subject. She started to volunteer at the Salford Healthy Communities, helping to raise awareness of serious health issues amongst the local community, including others who had come to the UK from abroad. Some of which who weren’t aware of their healthcare entitlements and that were struggling with the language barrier.
The commitment Maryam showed to those in her local community was so profound she was named ‘The Heart of Salford Young Volunteer of the Year,’ with some of her volunteer work directly helping to save lives.
With the help of staff and tutors at Salford City College, Maryam received a scholarship at the University of York and hopes to go on to save more lives in the future by specialising in haematology, the study of blood disorders.
Maryam with her former tutor Lisa Myers, Salford City College
She had this to say about her win, "Being nominated for the BTEC Science Student of the Year 2017 award in itself is an incredible honour, and I was absolutely ecstatic to have been shortlisted amongst all the other hardworking and inspirational students in Science.
“BTEC Science allowed me to study the subject I'm most passionate about and get a university offer for the degree and field I have always wanted to pursue.
“Coming to a new country and learning a completely new language while supporting my mother and brother at a young age hasn't been easy, and being away from our father while doing so is still a massive challenge to overcome, but I definitely would not have achieved the positive experiences or opportunities without the incredible help of my teachers and my extremely supportive family, from my first day of here school in the UK until this day." - Maryam Taher
“This award has given me incredible motivation and hopefulness for the future and I cannot be grateful enough for everyone who nominated and chose me."
Left: Maryam Taher. Right: Leah Dean
Overall, 22 successful candidates were singled out for excellence in their area of study or work, after almost 1000 applications were made to this year’s judging panel.
The winners of the awards were unveiled at the ceremony by the BBC television presenter and journalist, Steph McGovern. Other awards were also presented by education and business leaders, including Peter Jones from BBC TV’s Dragon’s Den.