June 2019 - Capital City College Group
Accessibility & Translation

Santiago is beating a broken neck to inspire others

When he was just 15, Santiago Fori fell from a climbing frame in his local park and smashed the C4 cervical vertebrae in his neck – an accident that left him a quadriplegic: in a wheelchair, struggling to breathe and with no use of his arms or legs. Since then, his recovery has astounded his doctors and he has just completed the Travel and Tourism – Level 3 Extended Diploma course at Westminster Kingsway College.

After three years at the college, he is preparing to move on, find work and provide vital support and guidance to other people who are in his situation. Recently, he took time out to chat to us about his journey so far and what he wants to do in the future.

Santiago at our Victoria Centre

When he started at the college, Santiago was just 16 years old and was still coming to terms with his injuries. “On my first day at the college, I guess I was a bit nervous” he told us. “I didn’t know what it would be like and if people would be OK with me. It helped a bit that I already had a friend at the college, but I was still nervous.”

He needn’t have worried. His fellow students and the staff team at our Victoria Centre proved to be very welcoming. “I have had a good three years here, but I think that the highlight for me has been that my classmates have treated me with respect and just the same as the other students.” He is full of praise for his teachers too: “Anything I have needed or questions I’ve had, they have always helped me or answered.”

His own positive attitude has helped too. Jo-Ann Stephens, Santiago’s Travel and Tourism lecturer, said: “As soon as he started on his level 2 course, Santi’s charisma and self-determination became apparent. He set his personal standards in relation to his qualification high, and has always been very keen to take part in all college activities. He is a popular young man with his peers because of his personality and wit, not because he is in a wheelchair.”

And now, armed with new skills and confidence from three years’ studying at WestKing, Santiago is really positive about the future, and, most importantly, he has choices and options for what he will do next. “I am looking for work at the moment. I would love to work in accessibility or disability jobs – I looked at a job at Tottenham Hotspur FC – and I am going to start volunteering at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, where I go for some treatments and work out at the gym there.

“The hospital wants to offer more support and guidance to people who’ve recently become disabled and they asked me if I could help out. It’s a new thing for the hospital – there was no-one like that who was there for me when I had my accident – so I am looking forward to being the first person doing this.”

Santiago works out at the hospital’s gym, to boost his strength, which is slowly returning (unusually for someone who has broken their C4 cervical vertebrae, he has a little bit of movement in his shoulders and wrists) and he is looking to get a fitness instructor qualification, so he can be a personal trainer to other quadriplegics. Despite his injuries, he says he feels fortunate: “Most people with my injury wouldn’t be able to move their arms or legs at all, so I feel lucky in a way.” His Christian faith has given him a lot of strength too.

Jo-Ann sums up Santiago’s time with us: “During his three years with us, Santi has become an inspiration to all who met him as he accepted and adapted to his life, not letting his disability hinder his future. We will never forget him and know that one day we will hear that he has achieved something fantastic.”

Santiago feels that the college was a very welcoming place for him and says he would recommend the college to other disabled people. Many other students also tell us that we offer a safe and welcoming place for all students – whatever their age, ethnicity or disability.

CONEL Alum Raising Awareness for HPV & Cervical Cancer

CONEL alum Mek Mehmet-Yesil studied Nursing Access to Higher Education Diploma in 2017 and is now the NHS’s representative for North London and Haringey, raising awareness of HPV and cervical cancer. Mek returned in May to talk to the current Enfield Access and Pre-Access learners about her work in this area. 

Worldwide, cervical cancer is the most frequent cancer in women with an estimated 570,000 new cases in 2018 representing 7.5% of all female cancer deaths. It is estimated that there are more than 311,000 deaths from cervical cancer every year. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. Most sexually active women and men will be infected at some point in their lives and some may be repeatedly infected.

Working alongside Public Health England, Mek has been raising awareness for HPV and cervical cancer for four months, screening over 400 patients in this short time.

Mek said: “I’ve always wanted to be a Scientist in health, and biology and chemistry were my favourite subjects. I graduated from medical school back in 1990 but never pushed my career forward due to unforeseen circumstances. At the age of 45 I revisited my education with outstanding grades, many of which were distinctions. 

“This has been such an amazing journey after my one year Access to HE Diploma at CONEL in 2017. I set up Health Screen UK back in February 2017 as I noticed there was a need for this service, especially in the deprived non-English community. The service consists of checking bloods, for people’s cholesterol levels, body mass index and diabetes. I have done several community events this year already.

“My daughter was taken ill because of the HPV virus so I conducted some research and was taken up by Public Health England in March this year to educate and spread awareness about this preventable disease. 

“Attending CONEL gave me a new sense of life again, although most of the students were half my age it didn’t deter me. It was quite energising. It’s never too late to re-educate one’s self and there are no barriers involved. I felt complete after the course.”

CONEL Celebrates Success of Creative Media Students

The College of Haringey, Enfield & North East London’s Tottenham Centre recently hosted its annual Creative Media end of year show and awards ceremony. The event showcases and celebrates the work of the college’s creative and media students, in subjects including game design, photography, 2D and 3D design, media and music production.

The day-long event kicked off with an e-sports tournament which saw students go head-to-head playing popular games Tekken 7, FIFA 19 and Super Smash Bros. Finalist in the FIFA 19 tournament, Geobri Mayingi said: “Everyone thinks they are the best, so it’s good to finally be able to put it to the test. It’s great to be able to play against all my friends in college and have fun together.”

While the tournament was going on, there were live music performances in the sunny square from Level 2 and Level 3 music students. Level 3 students Ellis Bocking and Alfie Fraser, stage names Fraser x wys, performed one of their new tracks Lunatic Rapper. 

Students’ photography and game design work was showcased in the canteen. One of our winning students was Photography student Natasha Lynch. Working in housing and looking for some photography lessons, she’d found our photography short course on Google and started the course in February.

Natasha at the Creative Media Awards 2019
Natasha at the Creative Media Awards 2019

Natasha said: “I found it great from start to finish, the support was amazing. I grew in confidence throughout the course with help from my tutors. We were learning things like Photoshop and the fact I could learn so much in such a short space of time without feeling overwhelmed was great. We even had a day trip to the National Portrait Gallery, which helped us with our project.”

“Great teaching and great support meant we could produce great work. I think this experience has changed me.”

Natasha wants to become a teacher, so, she has signed up to a Teacher training course with CONEL starting in September.

The awards ceremony itself was held in the evening in our Microsoft suite and was hosted by CONEL students Tai-Jaun Akberali and Rachel Ngopwani.

Awards were given out to the following students: 

  • Best Live Show Director – Nicholas Jennings
  • Best Documentary – Ana Silva Gelinskas
  • Best Trailer – Abdirahman Mahamud
  • Best Concept Art – Safa Ramadan and Andrea Maly
  • Best 2D Animation – Patrycja Lukaszewska
  • Best 3D Animation – Patrycja Lukaszewska
  • Best 2D Game – Tautvydas Marcinkevicius
  • Best Interactive App – Omnya Wish
  • Best Short Film – Bozhidar Gospodinov
  • Best Film Composer – Vasili Achillea
  • Best Sound for Film – Lisa Farrell-Tonge
  • Best Producer – Ellis Bocking
  • Best Photographer – Natasha Lynch and Fatima Nasin Sikder
  • Best Ident – Nicholas Jennings
  • Best Stop Motion Animation – Omnya Wish
  • Best Music Video – Frankie Foster
  • Best Professional Engagement – Tai-Jaun Akberali
  • Best Motion Graphics – Tai-Jaun Akberali.

Media Production Level 2 student Ana Carolina Silva Gelinskas returned to the college for the awards and was rewarded by winning the Best Documentary Award. Having completed a degree in Brazil, Ana moved to England but had to work as a nanny for four years because her Brazilian degree is not recognised in the UK. Ana returned to education at CONEL in September 2018 and passed her course with us this year.

After retraining, Ana has now secured a full time job as a design assistant at the renowned Riverside Works, where she will help design high-quality awnings, blinds and curtains.

Ana said: “I think CONEL helped me with my confidence and my professional skills. They helped me know what I wanted to do.” 

CCCG Governor receives OBE

The newly appointed Capital City College Group governor Dr. Dwain A. Neil has been awarded an OBE for “services to the British African Caribbean community”, announced as part of the Queen’s birthday honours list on 7 June 2019.

OBEs are British orders of chivalry, serving to recognise the significance of an individual’s contributions in local community roles.

Dr Neil is a cofounder of Reach Society, a social enterprise for encouraging young people, and especially young black men, to realise their potential, and also joins us as co-founder of the British Caribbean Junior Chamber of Commerce (or BCJCC).

His contributions to the conversation around race and inclusion over his 40 year career extend to membership of the Home Secretary’s Race Relations Forum and Race Equality Advisory Panel, Commissioner with the Commission for Racial Equality (or CRE) and Commissioner in the Household Cavalry Formal Investigation, looking at the treatment of Black and minority ethnic service staff in the armed services in 1998.

On leaving university in 1979 he joined Shell International Chemicals, and he was inspired to become a community volunteer by his parents who were passionate about helping others less fortunate than themselves. He joined an education charity founded by his mother and rose to become its chairman. He also served as chairman of governors at a school in North West London before cofounding the BCJCC for young Black executives who wanted to hone their skills and expertise while pursuing their careers.

Dr Neil says: “This national honour came as a wonderful surprise for my family and me. I guess it means that my four decades of volunteering has not gone unnoticed; and I am slowly getting used to this level of recognition.”

As the chairman of Reach Society he continues to spearhead the roll out of inspirational events for young people in London and the South East, and also in urban areas in the regions. He is “delighted to be appointed to the CCCG board, and hopes to add value to this leading FE College Group”.

Students participate in Festival of Learning competition

Part of the nationwide Festival of Learning, students at the Centre for Lifelong Learning are invited to participate in a writing competition posing the question ‘How has returning to study changed my life?’

June marks the start of ‘Have a Go Month’ in which free learning activities are promoted up and down the country, from online courses to open days. Colleges, universities and community centres are invited to engage with the Festival of Learning, which awards prizes for activities in September.

The Festival of Learning is organised by Learning and Work Institute, and runs in partnership with Hotcourses. Stephen Evans, Chief Executive at Learning and Work Institute, writes:

“Festival of Learning is all about inspiring people to learn, highlighting the various learning opportunities available, and demonstrating the positive impacts of lifelong learning to society and the economy.”

Until 21 June, students will be able to make a submission in prose, poetry or song format, reflecting on the value of coming back to study. Entries should be submitted to the CLL Library. Prizes will be awarded for the best entries, which will also be displayed in the library and Centre’s atrium. Winners will also be invited to read out their entries at the Festival of Learning Awards Ceremony on 26 June.

Library Team Leader Simon Nelson tells us: “What we are looking for are inspiring contributions about barriers overcome and aspirations achieved that students are happy to share, and which may inspire other students in turn.

“On that note we often get entries from students who have come from difficult situations where circumstances prevented their reaching study goals, only for them to gain confidence (with the support of staff) within the friendly, multicultural environment we have at the college.” 

Moe Bar-El – from CANDI to Olivier Nominee

City and Islington College alumnus Moe Bal-El has been forging an impressive career as an actor. In June 2019, he took the time to speak to us about life after college, and what it takes to succeed in a creative pathway.

Moe studied a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Performing Arts at City and Islington College between 2010 and 2012 before going on to the Identity School of Acting for two years “on and off”, and making his break into agency work shortly after. Today, he is perhaps best known on screen for his roles in Le Bureau des Légendes (2015), Tyrant (2014) and Zero (post-production).

Having recently received a nomination at the Laurence Olivier Awards (Britain’s most prestigious stage award) for his performance in Every Day I Make Greatness Happen, Moe has a few pointers to hand on surviving the industry.

“A lot of my friends have come to me and asked what you need to do well. I don’t want to say that I’m comfortable, but I’m doing okay, so I’ve had to answer this question a lot. I’ve thought about this question a lot.

“For me to succeed, it’s about staying highly motivated and believing you are actually doing something. You have to keep moving forward. I try to do something every day that makes me better than where I was yesterday, whether it’s reading a book or taking a class. But more than that it’s about how you react when you hit rock bottom. 

“This isn’t an easy industry. When things get hard, you have to be able to bounce back. I try to listen to a lot of motivational speeches – even if they’re just on in the background. It’s about having the right input to keep you going. I try to surround myself with positive influences. Staying mentally and physically healthy is important if you want to grow.

“And you can’t copy what anybody else is doing. You have to find your own path. It has to be natural. You need to have your own identity. When I was starting out, I emailed every casting director on Spotlight I could find. It took about a month, but I got around ten auditions from it, and made some good contacts. I didn’t know anybody else who was doing that – you have to be different.”

Moe started his journey studying at the Centre for Business, Arts and Technology in 2010, before working in Germany and America in 2019. 

“Going back to City and Islington College, it really was the kickstart I needed. I hadn’t done acting before and coming to college was my taster. I had the opportunity to explore my strengths and weaknesses and to perform on stage. That was the point I realised I wanted to continue acting. Freedom was the motivation – I liked being able to take a character and make it my own, to create something from nothing.

“You can’t be in it for the fame or the money. It can be hard. I work as a personal trainer on the side, which gives me some stability. I’d advise having a second skill. But acting isn’t something you can do as a hobby – you have to be committed to the craft. Read books and learn from everybody. My teachers helped me with that.”

On his recent nomination for an Olivier Award, a career-defining achievement for any actor, let alone one who only recently turned 27, Moe said: “It just came around out of the blue. We were doing rehearsals for The Jungle, my third performance, and I got the call. I had only been professionally in the business for three years. It was a long way from my first gig on French TV. I was surprised. 

“Now I’m just taking it as it comes. It’s a journey and I’m still learning. It’s about having the freedom to create first, and the awards second.”

Thanks to our Culinary Arts sponsors

On Friday 31 May, our School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts held its annual Sponsors and Business Partners Lunch at the Brasserie in our Victoria Centre. Four years ago, this event welcomed 30 guests, but this year the Brasserie was buzzing to the sound of 175 eager industry professionals.

The happy and warm atmosphere at the event was testimony to the close relationships that we have developed with all our sponsors and partners – in some cases, over many decades.

The slick and professional lunchtime service was led by the students: and individual courses provided a platform for showing off their culinary expertise whilst paying homage to the sponsors and showcasing leading-edge products. An innovative new food source, Plancton Marino, made its debut in one of two fish courses. The meat dish allowed guests to sample 21-day dry aged loin of English Rose Veal provided by Buitelaar, whilst the light dessert nodded in appreciation to chocolate suppliers, Callebaut. And everything was accompanied by wines from Bodegas Riojanas.

We are also grateful to: the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, who provided the starter course; Castillo de Canena, who provided olive oils; Pedrino(aperitif drinks); Seafood from Norway (cod fish course); Gallo Rice (risotto rice); Koppert Cress (micro herbs); Marriages Flours (flour for our breads); Cinco Jotas (Jamon and Jamon Carver); and Churchill China, who supplies all our plates. From source to kitchen, and kitchen to plate, the success of this event was down to partnerships – not only between sponsors and the college, but also between our highly skilled staff and dedicated students.

Each year around 260 students graduate from our School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts, to join the more than four and a half million people already employed in the UK’s hospitality sector. With heightened food awareness, a plethora of cooking related TV shows and the culture of the celebrity chef, the industry is booming; so it’s little wonder that young people want a piece of the pie. For companies operating in the food and food services industry, building relationships early on with young chefs as they start their careers, is key for developing long-term brand loyalty. For example, Gary Hunter, Deputy Principal of Westminster Kingsway College, first started using chocolate products from Callebaut in his student days and decades on, he remains faithful to the brand. Callebaut have been long term sponsors of the School, demonstrating a reciprocal working relationship that has been nurtured and invested in.

As Gary explains: “Being a sponsor gives the company exposure, and helps them raise awareness of them and their products among our students. Every year, dozens of our students leave us to work in top-quality hotels and restaurants, so generating awareness and loyalty makes perfect sense for these companies.

“Colleges rely on these partnerships too. Further Education has seen the biggest cuts in the education sector over last 25 years and the simple truth is that centres such as our School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts could not maintain our world-renowned status without the sustained input that we enjoy from our partners. We value our sponsors’ support very highly and it’s our pleasure to host a special dinner for them every year at the college.”

If you are a company that supplies food or catering products and would like to sponsor or partner with our School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts, please contact Jose Souto on 07803 002 185 or jose.souto@westking.ac.uk

Our School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts has over 70 partners, suppliers and supporters, including:

  • Alaska Seafood
  • Angel Refrigeration
  • Bodegas Riojanas
  • Castillo de Canella
  • Churchill China
  • Cinco Jotas (Jamon)
  • Craft Guild of Chefs
  • Grakka Ltd
  • Kopper Cress
  • Lincolnshire Game
  • Marriages Flours
  • Norfolk Quail
  • Nisbets
  • Plancton Marino
  • Riedel
  • Riso Gallo
  • Royal Academy of Culinary Arts
  • Seafood from Norway
  • Shellfish Association of Great Britain
  • The Master Chefs of Great Britain
  • Westminster Business Council
Queen's Award for Enterprise