A student on the Autistic spectrum who was bullied at school for being different has won a national award that will help support his next step as he goes to university
Having “overcome severe educational obstacles” Mark Parryman from Long Melford is now going to study accountancy and management.
Mark joined West Suffolk College on a short course in foundation studies called Fast Forward, aimed at students with barriers to learning.
He went on to business level two diploma and achieved a distinction star, the highest grade. He then went on to receive more distinctions on the business level three diploma and has now has earned himself 510 UCAS points, from his AAT level three, OCR diploma in business and IFS level three certificate in financial capability.
Mark said he was “happy and very glad” to have won the award.
“The amount of support I have had from the college has been fantastic, I’m so glad I took this route. At the start I did not think I would get to university.”
Personal support tutor Daniel Connor said: “The progress he has made is unparalleled considering the level he came into college at and the level he has now attained. Throughout his time at college, Mark has overcome severe educational obstacles and has mainly done this through perseverance and generosity of spirt.”
The Helena Kennedy Foundation, which exists to overcome social injustice, has now awarded Mark a financial bursary, mentoring and support to help him as he goes forward to study a degree at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.
The Foundation’s founder Dr Ann Limb said: “I am delighted Mark has successfully been awarded a bursary. He stood out, not just as a talented student but as someone with a passion for learning who would have their life changed by attending university”.
Mark, 19, explained he was diagnosed with high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder at the age of five.
“I have social skills issues and find socialising with peers and colleagues difficult. I suffered bullying due to being ‘different’ which caused problems throughout school.
“When I started college I was a shy, quiet young man. I took part in the college Fast Forward programme which improved my confidence, lived away from home for a week, made new friends but was supported by staff and student mentors.
“The next year I volunteered to help mentor on the Fast Forward programme to support other students struggling with social skills, I felt I wanted to give something back.”
At West Suffolk College Mark won an award for the most improved student of the year.
Throughout his studies he has had a learning support assistant with him to help him with understanding the work, writing and his social anxiety. “Without this support I would not have achieved as much as I have,” he said. “Going to university is the next challenge in my life.”
Mr Connor also said it was not just studying where Mark had succeeded. As someone who started with little confidence and found interacting with others a challenge, he has now grown into an articulate public speaker. He has also been elected class representative on the college’s student council several times and regularly volunteers at West Suffolk College open events.
“There are few students in college who have given so much back in terms of their time and their energy,” said Mr Connor.
Andrew Adamson, director of curriculum at West Suffolk College said: “Mark’s outstanding achievement during his time at college is richly deserved for all his effort and determination as well as his ability to work through the barriers that he has faced along the way. There are a vast number of students who have received the ‘wrap-around support’ from staff, which is available to all students at the college.
“He is just one of a number of students who have reached their aspirational targets and ambitions due to the time, effort and ability of the course teams here to inspire, coach and guide the students from the moment that they start with us all the way towards their intended destinations.
“I am immensely proud of all those who have been involved.”
Angela Demoore, subject leader for accounting and finance said: “Mark’s growth and journey over the two years of his course is not only commendable but aspirational to his colleagues and tutors.
“He is an excellent example that we can achieve our desired career paths with enough determination and focus.”