This July, Blackburne House was awash with smiles, tears and congratulatory hugs as over 100 learners came together for our Graduation – in this, our 40th birthday year!
We love graduation, it’s our favourite event in the academic calendar because it’s an opportunity to recognise the significant barriers and challenges many of our learners have overcome to succeed with their studies. It’s always a vibrant affair with a real sense of optimism in the air as students celebrate their achievements, reflect on their learning journey and proudly share their next steps.
We were honoured to be joined by Natasha Jonas, 2 Weight World Championship Boxer, who grew up a stone’s throw from Blackburne House. Our students were captivated by her inspiring journey which had all in the room smiling, laughing, cheering and nodding in agreement.
‘Work hard, practice, and ask for help.’
- simple but impactful advice shared by Natasha; words that empowered her to become a World Champion, to become the first ever British female boxer to fight at the Olympic games and, to be named British Boxer of the Year – a title only ever held by her male counterparts.
She told us how education opened a world of possibilities and opportunities, words that were echoed by our student speakers Tia Welch and Jade Parris. Both of these young women, since starting at Blackburne House, have gained employment, new skills and qualifications as well as gaining the confidence to excel in their fields.
Andy Macloed, Head of Education and Compliance, spoke of the transformative power of education, quoting the great Nelson Mandela:
“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
To say we are proud of what our learners have achieved is a massive understatement, and we can’t wait to see what they do next with their new qualifications.
The presentation of certificates was interspersed with some awe-inspiring performances. We were treated to a magical rendition of Over the Rainbow by 13-year-old Tiara Leigh Ferns, Voice Kids finalist and an original poem written in honour of our 40th Birthday by graduating student Ellah Hughes.
Our CEO, Andrea Rushton, also expressed her pride in our learners during her first graduation ceremony in this role. She told the audience all about her long-standing personal connection to Blackburne House, from her Aunty attending school here, to Andrea being a Blackburne
House student and a Director before becoming CEO. Her story demonstrates the important role Blackburne House has played in transforming women’s lives since opening it’s doors as the first girls school in the country in 1844 to re-opening it’s doors as Women’s Technology Scheme in 1983 (now known as Blackburne House Education).
Special recognition was paid to our Students of the Year, learners who exemplified our values - Equality, Independence, Inspiration, and Transformation. This was followed by the announcement of the Gill Dulgarn Award, which went to the outstanding Maxine May who, this year, has completed her Access course. Her remarkable accomplishments and acceptance into university to study Law in September, are a perfect example of the transformative power of education.
Liz Cross, Chair of Blackburne House who expertly compered this year’s ceremony brought proceedings to a close, exuding gratitude for all those who have supported Blackburne House over our 40 year history. Guests were then treated to a celebratory lunch provided by our Bistro, who now also offer a delicious outside catering service.
Our graduation ceremony was not only a celebration of academic accomplishments; it was a celebration of empowerment, perseverance and the gifts of Belief, Help and Friendship. Blackburne House has for 40 years created a legacy of inspiring, confident and successful women and we hope this tradition will continue to flourish for many more years to come.
If you want to be a part of our legacy and transform your life at Blackburne House, we are now enrolling for our September courses. You can come and meet our terrific team of tutors and enrol on a course by attending an Open Day this August – book now and start your learning journey!
All photos* from Graduation 2023 can be viewed here.
*Photography by Periscope Productions.