Graduation success for college students

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A group of Borders College students saw their fundraising efforts in memory of a late classmate honoured with a special award at their graduation ceremony last week.

The horse care students received the annual award for citizenship in recognition of their fundraising campaign following the death of their 18 year-old classmate Caroline Taylor-Smith, of Duns, in a road accident last year.

They celebrated their graudation alongisde more than 150 class mates and 550 family and friends at a packed Springwood Park in Kelso on Friday, September 30.

Earlier this year, the students hosted their take on the modern pentathlon which saw teams take part in a walk or run, followed by a showjumping competition and organised races.

They raised money to buy a commemorative bench, as well as making donations to their chosen relevant charities.

The amount raised exceeded all expectations and allowed the group to buy a commemorative bench and plaque which, with the help of the college landscaping students, was placed outside the office at the Ian Stark Equestrian Centre, near Selkirk, where the students train.

A commemorative cherry tree was also planted in the public park in Caroline’s home town.

The remaining funds were donated by the students to the British Horse Society and the Scottish Air Ambulance Service.

A further donation was made to the Ettrickbridge and Dryden Riding for the Disabled group.

The final part of the funds raised will go towards providing a saddle for two rescue ponies recently rehomed and cared for by the students as a health and welfare learning opportunity.

Graduates Rebecca Miller, Katie Duncan and Lucie Shand accepted the citizenship award at the graduation ceremony on behalf of the group.

An honorary fellowship was bestowed upon fund-raiser Wilma Gunn, of Selkirk.

She was honoured for her work in installing defibrillators across the Borders and the whole of Scotland and in raising awareness of heart disorders in young people.

Following the death of Wilma and husband Kenneth’s eldest son, Cameron, the day before his 20th birthday, Wilma set up Scottish Heart At Risk Testing, a charity which provides screening for, and raises awareness of heart disorders in young sports people.

Students at the ceremony heard how Wilma has worked to raise £5,000 to supply a special cardiac special bed at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.

Cameron suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition which, left undiagnosed, can lead to the fatal collapse of otherwise healthy young sports people during exercise.

Since the creation of the charity in 2002 and thanks to Wilma’s tireless commitment, the cardiac arrest survival rate in the Borders alone has risen from 3% to 22.7%.

Prizes and special awards were also presented to students by principal Liz McIntyre to recognise their achievements in the course of their study.

She said: “Their success has come about through hard work and a huge amount of dedication on the part of each and every one of our graduates, and I would like to congratulate them all on their achievement.I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all the staff of the college whose dedication, enthusiasm and encouragement have aided them in achieving their success and in making Borders College one of the most successful colleges in Scotland.”

This year’s other award-winners were Chelsea Middleton, for best higher education student; Gina Antonacci, named best further education student; Megan Redpath and Sasha Borthwick, given an award for superior performance while on a work placement; and Lesley Renton won the award for creativity.

The award for best access to learning went to Ryan Gillie, Reece McNaughton collected the entrepreneurial and enterprise award, Kris McLeod was named the Scottish Motor Trade Association’s apprentice of the year, and the Stuart Wilkie memorial trophy was presented to Gareth Irving.