Twenty-one-year-old Leslie Edwards, from Crawley, is one of Central Sussex College’s most inspirational success stories. After overcoming learning difficulties and a number of other educational set-backs in his early life, Leslie has gone on to successfully complete his BTEC First Diploma in Sport, to represent the College as President of the Student Executive, and to become a leading light in youth issues in the Crawley area. After five years at the College, Leslie will be joining the world of full-time employment this summer as a shining example of the value of vocational training to young people from non-academic backgrounds.
Leslie’s College career began in 2005, when he enrolled on Central Sussex College’s Extended Education Programme, run by the Faculty of Foundation Learning. Then in 2007, he enrolled on a Vocational Skills course, where he got to grips with the basics of building, mechanics, welding and fabrication, but it was the sports element of the course which he loved. Pursuing his passion, he went on to complete his BTEC Introductory Diploma in Sport and Leisure in 2009, and latterly his BTEC First Diploma in Sport.
In addition to his considerable educational achievements, Leslie discovered a passion for student issues, and through his involvement with the Student Executive, made a valuable contribution to student life at the College over several years. In 2008, he was elected President, and in this role, regularly represented Crawley-based students at College-wide groups and meetings and at Corporation level, where he sat alongside College Principal Russell Strutt, and Chair of the Corporation John Peel.
Outside of College, Leslie, who admits he “likes to keep busy”, divides his time between voluntary youth work at the youth wings of three local secondary schools, paid work for ‘The Friday Club’, which is the only social club for deaf and hearing impaired young people in the county, and as a detached youth worker, which sees him working with young people in their own, often challenging environments. He also finds time to present a regular slot on Crawley Hospital Radio, which he describes as his ‘escape’, and is a member of the Crawley Young Persons Council.
Leslie’s dedication to his studies and to the local community has not gone unrecognised at Central Sussex College. Chair of the Corporation, John Peel paid tribute to his achievements, saying “When I interviewed Leslie earlier this year, I heard of the struggles he had had with his early learning. He told me, “When I was 8, I could hardly string three words together”. Well, he has overcome his difficulties and for the last three years has represented the student body to the Corporation magnificently. He is always willing to give the student perspective, and does so very eloquently.”
College Principal Dr Russell Strutt added “Leslie is a wonderful role model for other students – he has shown that as a young person you can do it! It is possible with determination and personal ambition to significantly improve your life chances. He has been a courageous representative for students on the College Corporation, and has carried out a daunting role with great aplomb, ensuring that students’ views have been strongly put forward. We will miss Leslie’s presence around the College, we are very proud of him and wish him much success in his future.”
After five life-changing years, Leslie says he will always be grateful for the support and encouragement he received at Central Sussex College “Over the last five years, the College has helped me to develop into the person that I am now. I would like to say a big thank you to all the staff and students that I have come to call my friends. On a personal level, for me to go from below Level 1, to come through and complete a full Level 2 course in my chosen subject is a real achievement, and a great testament to all the brilliant teaching staff at Central Sussex College.” Summer 2010 may well mark the end of an era, but with full-time career in youth work on the cards, the future is looking bright for Leslie Edwards.
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