Success Stories - Kerry Thomas

My name is Kerry Thomas, I am 35 years old, I studied graphic design at University Centre South Essex from September 2013 until June 2016 and this is my story.

I left school in 2002 just after my GCSEs and worked up from a receptionist role to accounts payables assistant roles in various jobs until 2007. I then had my son and stayed at home and started a little cupcake company which didn’t really take off. In 2010 I went back to work again in an accounts assistant role until I fell pregnant with my daughter in 2011. After she was born I realised I didn’t want to work in accounts and I wanted to do something creative. I wanted a career so that I could change my family’s future and I wanted my children to know it’s never too late to chase a dream. So I enrolled with the college and did the Access to Art and Design course in 2012. I actually wanted to do interior design however, as I learnt more about graphic design I began to fall in love.

After graduating in October 2016, I landed my first role in a publishing/events company called Media10 and worked across a variety of magazines designing layouts for different publications. After a year I moved on to a creative agency called Powwow Creative. Here I learnt so much, there was such a variety of work from creating social and advertising campaigns to brand development. I was involved in the projects from start to completion and really grew as a designer here. Unfortunately in January 2019 I was made redundant. 

In February 2019 I lined up several interviews including one at Formula One, which was an amazing experience however, I was offered an amazing position at out of home media agency JCDecaux. 

I have been there for the past two years and I absolutely love it. I work in the department called one world which means that I work with all the large and global brands. I help creative solutions come up with new out of home advertising ideas and I create realistic mock-ups so that they can pitch to clients the concepts. I also support the sales team with their PowerPoint decks and any sales and marketing material.


Because I had children and obviously my family life I couldn’t go to a university that was too far away and luckily for me University Centre South Essex was more or less on my doorstep as I lived in Shoeburyness at the time. However that being said, I probably would have still chosen to go there even if I did have the option of going to another university. 


I think because I’d already had experience in the workplace I don’t know if it really helped me prepare for the work blows, it definitely helped me prepare for the type of roles that I would be doing once I had my degree. I can see and I do know the university has helped younger people who may not have had that experience to experience what work the workplace might be like.
The best thing about higher education, from my point of view, is the friendships you make and the inspiration you get from your tutors. There is support and guidance from other people and the pride in receiving recognition for learning about your passion.
One of the biggest skills university gave me was confidence. Confidence in my ability and the confidence to trust myself. It also gave me a firm understanding about the subject in which I was about to embark on a career in.


The equipment is all up-to-date when I was doing my degree and I then went into my first job because I was so used to using the equipment at the university centre I found it really easy to just carry on.


At the end of my first year on the graphic design degree I was feeling a little bit like, is this for me? Am I too old to be learning this? Most of the people on my course were under the age of 22 and had done a Graphic Design BTEC so they were already aware of things that I wasn’t and I was feeling a little deflated. Then we did the final major project and I will never forget that I looked at my final major project and I looked at my tutor John and I just felt in that moment so proud of how far I had come because when I started I knew nothing and looking at that final major project I thought, that's progress, this is where I’m finally getting it and I think my course tutor agreed.


There are a ton of universities that all claim to have the best courses the best people and I’m sure that they do but I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for the tutors, support and the guidance I received whilst at University Centre South Essex.
The best way I think to look at it is if a 27 year old mother of two children who has never had any experience in the career that she wants to do is able to go back to school and not only graduate but to also then embark on that career and be established as a designer then I think that shows exactly why you’d be mad not to consider University centre South Essex.
My greatest achievement apart from my beautiful children and getting a degree is working for one of the biggest media advertising agencies in the world (JCDecaux).


I do a lot of freelance work as well and in the future I would like to own my own agency in five to ten years

University Centre South Essex gave me confidence and also never will I be afraid again to chase my dreams because now I know for sure that if you shoot for the moon and you miss, that's okay, you’re still among the stars.


Also can I add in a thank you to Cherry Sandover (Access Course Leader) for taking me under her wing and allowing me to express myself and to John for giving me the chance. He knew I had no prior knowledge of Graphic Design but I promised him I would work hard and he gave me a shot. I want all the tutors to know I kept my promise and I’m still working hard but I will forever appreciate you taking a chance on me and changing my life.
 

Success stories

Celebrating Success 2022: Luke Lambert

Celebrating Success 2022: Luke Lambert

Course studied

Performing and Production Arts (Musical Theatre) Level 3 Extended Diploma

I have enjoyed receiving honest feedback and having the opportunity to grow as a performer. Tutors really encourage their students.

Performing Arts Student of the Year, Luke Lambert, has won his award because in every respect, his development and improvement has been outstanding.

Luke said that he feels extremely proud and grateful for the recognition. 

He said: “I chose to study at the college because I went to the open day with my parents. We were all really excited by the course and impressed by Richard and his ambition for his students.”

He added: “The course has been great for learning professional etiquette, as well as the actual training. I have enjoyed receiving honest feedback and having the opportunity to grow as a performer. Richard and Neil really encourage their students.” 

Luke’s tutor said: “Luke is an outstanding student. The development of his skills set during his time at this college is phenomenal which has been rewarded by casting him in the lead of the cohorts FMP production of ‘Spring Awakening’. As a result of his continuous diligence and want to improve, he has achieved offers from four top London Drama Schools to study Musical Theatre, Bird College, Arts Educational, Italia Conti and Guildford Conservatoire (GSA). This is far above what was expected at the beginning of his training. 

“He has demonstrated that he is highly motivated to succeed in this industry and aspires to always do his best. He is polite and well-mannered at all times to both his peers and his tutors. He is extremely well respected  by his cohort. He is always supportive of them and goes out of his way to help them. 

“He has become a very influential member of the group in so many positive ways. Behaviour, focus and attention to detail is impeccable and cannot be faulted. He has met every deadline for both practical and academic tasks. A faultless time at this college.”

Luke will be studying for a BA (Hons) in Musical Theatre at ArtsEd in London from September and his ultimate ambition is to be performing leading roles in the West End. 
 

Celebrating Success 2022: Zoe Souto

Celebrating Success 2022: Zoe Souto

Course studied

Animal Care Level 2 Diploma

Zoe Souto, 17, from Rayleigh, studied Level 2 Animal Care at the college’s Southend campus.

She was nominated for the award for her excellent attendance and attitude to college life and for completing work before deadlines to a very high standard.

Her tutor said: “Zoe is a very calming influence on the group. She keeps up-to-date with all work and goes above and beyond what is expected.

“Zoe may be hearing impaired but she never lets that act as a barrier to her learning and does everything to a great standard. I often have to set her work from level 3 to keep her ticking over.”

Zoe said: “I feel so proud of myself and surprised as I didn’t expect to be nominated, let alone win. I enjoyed all the support that was given during my course and have always been made to feel at home at the college.”

Zoe’s ambition for the future is to run her own pet services business or run her own cattery.
 

Celebrating Success 2022: Sophie Peacock

Celebrating Success 2022: Sophie Peacock

Course studied

Creative Media Production (Television and Film Production) Level 3 Extended Diploma

I would definitely recommend South Essex College to those are who are looking for somewhere to be themselves and find their true passion.

Sophie Peacock, 17, from Billericay, studied the Level 3 Creative Media (Television and Film) Diploma at the college’s Southend campus.

She was nominated for the award for her good level of organisation and commitment to every task as well as being a mature, professional and articulate student. 

Her tutor said: “Sophie takes advantage of every opportunity available to her both in college and outside, as she understands the value and benefits it will provide her with, in terms of networking, communicating, professionalism and improving her knowledge and skills. She is an absolute pleasure to have in the classroom and I hope she goes on to achieve great success.”
Sophie chose to study at the college because she liked the facilities that were available for her course.

She has loved the amount of creative freedom that the course has offered and being able to create any ideas and turn them into a reality with the support of her tutors.

Sophie was really proud and a little bit overwhelmed about winning the award.

She said: “I would definitely recommend South Essex College to those are who are looking for somewhere to be themselves and find their true passion.”

Sophie’s ambition for the future is to become a producer on the set of a live entertainment program. 
 

Celebrating Success 2022: Reiss Willis

Celebrating Success 2022: Reiss Willis

Course studied

Art and Design (Graphic Design) Level 3 Extended Diploma

Coming to college gave me the opportunity to make a fresh start.

Reiss Willis, from South Ockenden, studied the Level 3 Art & Design (Graphic Design) Diploma at the college’s Southend campus.

He was nominated for his positive attitude, work ethic and for producing high quality work, using digital and non-traditional methods.

His tutor said: “Reiss is a very nice individual, who is popular with the rest of the group and always eager to help other students. He should be incredibly proud of himself and his achievements because if he continues with this positive attitude and work ethic, he will have a fantastic future.”

Reiss would recommend South Essex College because of its accessibility, its support in all fields and the quality of teaching.

His greatest achievement was making a change in himself, to become more dedicated and motivated and be the ‘best version’ of himself. 

He said: “I struggled a little in school with behaviour and staying focussed so I knew coming to college was a fresh start and I could make a new impression. By completing all work to the highest quality and always completing additional work, I was able to win this award which I am very proud of.”

His plan after college is to go to Loughborough University and continue pursuing his dreams. 

His long term ambition is in graphic design where he would like to have his own firm and become a creative director, taking on jobs and rebrands for big companies.
 

Celebrating Success 2022: Mia Riley

Celebrating Success 2022: Mia Riley

Course studied

Sport and Exercise Sciences Level 3 Extended Diploma

I am so glad I chose South Essex College as it has given me the independence I needed in preparation for university

Mia Riley, 17, from Southend, studied the Level 3 Sport and Exercise Science Diploma at the college’s Southend campus.

She was nominated for her award for taking on multiple extracurricular activities and qualifications through college and putting in all her effort to every academic situation.

Her tutor said: “Mia is on track to achieve the highest grade possible for her course and has improved greatly throughout her time on the course. She is an exemplary sports student and person with a great care for education and future. We wish her all the success for the future.”

Mia liked that the students were treated as adults compared to school and that she was given more independence across the two years.

She describes herself as a shy person and said it would have been easier to stay at school, however her current course sounded a lot more challenging and pushed her out of her comfort zone. 

She said: “I feel so pleased about winning the award and feel proud to receive it. I am so glad I chose South Essex College as it has given me the independence I needed in preparation for university.”

Mia will be going to Loughborough University to study sport science, physical education and coaching, with ambitions to eventually become a PE teacher. 

Celebrating Success 2022: Lubna Shamoud

Celebrating Success 2022: Lubna Shamoud

Course studied

I would recommend the college because it opens many doors to you, and a support that accompanies you

Gateway to Vocational Learning Student of the Year, Lubna Shamoud, said winning this award was very unexpected.

She explained: “When things like this happen, you just don't know how to describe them because they are special, but I can say that I felt very fulfilled and satisfied with myself”

Lubna chose to study at South Essex College because she felt it offered her the course that most suited her.

She said: “The college makes all students feel welcome and looks after them both mentally and physically. I really like my teachers, who have been very understanding about my language situation, they have  supported me so much and I would like to send all of them a thank you from my heart.”

Lubna’s tutor said: “ Lubna is a dedicated learner who always attempts work given to her with as much energy as possible. Lubna works very hard, is always attentive and focused, and produces high quality work because of it.” 

Lubna added that 2022 has been full of success both from a personal, educational, and work point of view . 

She said: “It was full of challenges as I am living in a country with a new language, people, culture, and climate. But all this was worth it, and one of the results that proves it is precisely this award.

“I would recommend the college because it opens many doors to you, and a support that accompanies you.”

Lubna plans to start a Level 2 Health and Social Care course and also work in health or sales services. 

She said: “My ambitions for the future are many, but the concept lies in doing good for people so I would like to create a charity and become a positive influence to people .”
 

Celebrating Success 2022: Sophie Wade

Celebrating Success 2022: Sophie Wade

Course studied

Graphic Design & Illustration BA (Hons)

The university centre has given me plenty of opportunities to speak with the tutors and seek feedback and support on a one-to-one basis and there is a real community feeling

Sophie Wade, from Stanford-le-Hope, is in her second year of the Graphic Design BA (Hons) course at University Centre South Essex.

She was nominated for the award for her professional manner and her proactive attitude to work. 

Sophie has many notable achievements at the university centre so far such as securing a web design work placement based in London, working at a Leigh-On-Sea based marketing agency and collaborating with the RSPB on her final second year project.

Her tutor said: “Sophie has approached her work placement unit in a professional manner since day one and her proactive manner has meant that she secured many work placement opportunities, including working with the RSPB on her own self-directed project. 

Sophie has been a really great peer mentor throughout the academic year and all her interactions with employers have helped prepare her for the professional world when she completes the course next year.”

Sophie returned to education after three years of working in local authority administration roles to embark on a new creative career path and was very nervous about starting her degree studies in 2020, but said the staff at the university could not have been more accommodating and helpful.

She said: “I feel privileged to have been selected to receive this award and I am extremely grateful to the staff across the UAL creative portfolio who have selected me as the winner.

The university centre has given me plenty of opportunities to speak with the tutors and seek feedback and support on a one-to-one basis and there is a real community feeling. I could not think of a better way to conclude my second year of study here at the university centre.”

Sophie’s ambition for the future is to embark on a career where she can combine her love for graphic design and digital technology and create solutions which make a positive difference to people's lives.