MORE than 120 students celebrated success after years of studying at Bishop Auckland College’s annual HE graduation ceremony.

Subjects studied included engineering, teaching, counselling, sport, healthcare, music and performing arts.

Among the students was Kerrie Brown, 28, from Darlington, an advanced technical engineering apprentice with Cummins who completed her HNC in mechanical engineering at the college’s engineering training partner South West Durham Training and plans to do a HND then an engineering degree.

She said: “I’d like to work my way up through Cummins and become a chartered engineer. Along the way I hope to experience several departments of interest in order to build up my knowledge and skills.”

Teacher Catherine Douglas, 49, went back to being a student herself to get a PGCE as she hopes to move into college lecturing after three decades working in early years.

The mother-of-one, from Bishop Auckland, who received her PGCE, said: “With a lecturing qualification, my career options will be stronger as a result of having several qualifications that I can teach in. This qualification is very versatile and transferable and I may seek employment in another part of the country or world once my daughter finishes her A levels.”

Returning to the classroom also put Pat Hodgson right into the driving seat, for the 55-year-old gained so much confidence after joining the college to gain a foundation degree in counselling she decided to take driving lessons and passed her test.

Mrs Hodgson, of Bishop Auckland, who is married with a 28-year-old son, said: “Counselling is something I had always wanted to study. Four years ago I decided it was now or never. I nervously walked into the college and enquired about enrolling. That began a journey that changed my life and from which I have never looked back.

“I am now going on to compete my honours degree in counselling and continue my work with Butterwick Hospice. Without a doubt doing this course has changed my life– I am so proud of what I have achieved professionally and personally in four years.”

Charlotte Murphy, 20, of Bishop Auckland, gained a HND in performing arts and hopes to run her own youth theatre group after completing a degree in technical drama at Lincoln University, which she starts in autumn. She has volunteered with drama groups Shildon Tearaways and Bishop Auckland Theatre Society, and worked at Daisy Arts.

Gareth Brown, 34, from Durham City, (HND sport) works as an assistant project officer and disability sports coach for SMILE Through Sport, an organisation which promotes and delivers disability sport, and volunteers for Boccia England, the national governing body for the Paralympic sport.

Accounts manager Rachel Flowers, 37, of Darlington, (FD counselling) hopes to become a counsellor and completes her honours degree at the University of Sunderland in September.

She said: “The course has been challenging, life changing and incredible. Bishop Auckland College is a lovely place to study with very supportive tutors.”

Drummer Jimmy Robinson, 68, has travelled the world playing with bands for 50 years but proved an old dog is never too old to learn new tricks by passing his HND in music and will also complete his degree at the University of Sunderland next year.

The father-of-six, of Bishop Auckland, said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the college. Mixing with all age ranges, passing on my experience to younger students and learning from them, has been a wonderful experience.”

Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman said: “Learning is a lifelong process and tonight was a fantastic celebration of this. The successes were achieved through hard work which demonstrate that the students receiving their certificates and awards tonight will continue to achieve, whether in the work place, benefitting their communities or in further studies.”

The college also celebrated its own Higher Education achievement, receiving a bronze award in the Teaching Excellence Framework ratings for 'delivering teaching, learning and outcomes for its students that meet rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education'.

Principal Natalie Davison-Terranova said: “The graduation ceremony is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication for each student and I would like to congratulate every graduate for their own personal success story and wish them well.”