OCN Awards Showcase Learners’ Achievements

Posted By:
Open College Network NI (OCNNI)

26th Jun 2024

Over 350 learners, teachers, tutors, and special guests celebrated the OPEN COLLEGE NETWORK NI (OCN NI) Learning Endeavour Awards 2024 at Titanic Belfast (25 June 24).  The annual awards, now in their 6th year, were hosted by Denise Watson and aim to celebrate the achievements of learners who have gone to exceptional lengths to achieve their learning goals. This year’s special guest was Clodagh Dunlop MBE who gave an inspirational talk on her remarkable journey of overcoming ‘locked in’ syndrome following a stroke in 2015.

A total of £16,000 was awarded to learners and providers through learning bursaries from across the province who have achieved extraordinary results, with some learners overcoming numerous personal hurdles to achieve their professional and technical OCN qualifications. The learners and providers recognised at the OCN Learning Endeavour Awards are a powerful reminder of the profound impact that education can have on individuals and communities.

Martin Flynn, CEO, OCN, said: “Once more we have been able to provide a unique platform for our learners to showcase their achievements, sometimes against impossible odds, and provide recognition for the tremendous commitment and determination they have shown to achieve their qualification.  Our guest speaker and newly awarded MBE Clodagh Dunlop added greatly to the sense of achievement on the day with the remarkable story of how she overcame debilitating adversity following her stroke.  Her story illustrated the powerful message of just what can be achieved if you are determined enough to succeed.”

The Third Sector Learner of the Year winner was Luke Jennings, Start 360, taking home the Schools Learner of the Year award was Ethan McKee, St Louises’s College, Belfast; OCN Provider of The Year category winner was Belfast Met Supported Learning and the Inspiring Tutor/Teacher of the Year award went to Paul Mercer, South Eastern Regional College.

Daniel McCann, South Eastern Regional College won our Further Education Learner of the Year category, with Mantvydas Kizauskas from People 1st, collecting the Essential Skills Learner of the Year category.

The Health & Well-being Learner of the Year went to Christine Chambers, Action Mental Health; and South Eastern Regional College – Hospitality and Culinary Arts School won the Advancing Learning Through Innovation category. And a new award category for 2024, Traineeship/Apprenticeship Learner of the Year was won by Ryan Phelan from North West Regional College.

Clodagh Dunlop MBE said: “As someone who has had to deal with many personal challenges and setbacks over recent years, it was inspiring to hear many of the stories from the learners on how they were able to focus on their learning goals, despite the numerous hurdles placed in their path. Even during the darkest times, I never lost hope in my determination to overcome the condition I developed, so hearing these other life experiences is powerful testament to what each of us can achieve when we are determined to succeed.”

The final Award of the 2024 ceremony, the Hilary Sloan MBE Learning Endeavour Award, in memory of former OCN Chair who was a powerful advocate of life-long learning, was announced by OCN Vice Chair Anne-Marie McClure.  For the first time joint recipients were announced – Christine Chambers, Action Mental Health & Luke Jennings, Start360.  OCN NI Chairperson Paul Donaghy said: “The Hilary Sloan MBE Learning Endeavour Award winners for 2024 Christine Chambers and Luke Jennings will each receive an additional £1,000 learning bursary.  Both had incredibly impressive stories of commitment and dedication and it was impossible to separate them. Massive congratulations to Christine and Luke, and to all of our shortlisted finalists and category winners.”

The full list of winners and highly commended was as follows:

Further Education Learner of the Year

  • Daniel McCann, South Eastern Regional College –  WINNER
  • Aron Parke, Northern Regional College,  – HIGHLY COMMENDED
  • Susan O’Neill, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) – HIGHLY COMMENDED

Third Sector Learner of the Year

  • Luke Jennings, Start360 – WINNER
  • Nathan Hall, Bryson Energy – HIGHLY COMMENDED
  • Nicolle Smith, Orchardville  – HIGHLY COMMENDED

Essential Skills Learner of the Year

  • Mantvydas Kizauskas ,People 1st – WINNER
  • Chloe Neilson, Network Personnel Ltd – HIGHLY COMMENDED
  • Matthew Wiggins, Ashfield Boys High School  – HIGHLY COMMENDED

Schools Learner of the Year

  • Ethan McKee, St Louise’s College, Belfast – WINNER
  • Charlotte Paine, St Malachy’s High School, Castlewellan – HIGHLY COMMENDED
  • Che Harbinson, Lough Road Learning Centre (EOTAS) – HIGHLY COMMENDED
  • Ebony Theed, Brownlow Integrated College – HIGHLY COMMENDED

Health & Well-being Learner of the Year

  • Christine Chambers, Action Mental Health – WINNER
  • Darren O’Neill, Habitat for Humanity – HIGHLY COMMENDED
  • Clare Bowman, Poleglass Community Association @ Sally Gardens – HIGHLY COMMENDED

Inspiring Tutor/Teacher of the Year

  • Paul Mercer, South Eastern Regional College – WINNER
  • Samuel Mullan, Connected Health/Connected Academy – HIGHLY COMMENDED
  • Caoimhe O’Connell, Oh Yeah Music Centre – HIGHLY COMMENDED

Provider of the Year

  • Belfast Met Supported Learning-WINNER
  • Bogside & Brandywell Health Forum – HIGHLY COMMENDED

Advancing Learning Through Innovation

  • South Eastern Regional College – Hospitality and Culinary Arts School-WINNER
  • Marion Centre of Excellence CIC– HIGHLY COMMENDED

Trainee/Apprenticeship Learner of the Year

  • Ryan Philips, North West Regional College – WINNER
  • Jack Evans, South West College – HIGHLY COMMENDED
  • Tom Brett, South Eastern Regional College – HIGHLY COMMENDED

Hilary Sloan MBE Learning Endeavour Award

  • Christine Chambers, Action Mental Health and Luke Jennings, Start360

For more information visit www.ocnni.org.uk.