Published: September 16, 2011
Highbridge graduate tells of Gambia education experience

A Highbridge student who was so moved by the plight of poor people in the Gambia that she helped organise the education of four children has graduated from Weston College this week.

Kayleigh Gillard, 20, received her Foundation Degree in Tourism Management at a ceremony in Weston on Thursday (September 15th), which saw around 200 students pick up foundation and honours degrees.

As part of her course, Kayleigh and 20 other students and teachers flew to the Gambia earlier this year to study the effects of tourism in a Third World country. Kayleigh took a suitcase of children's clothes with her that were distributed around a local school.

However, she was unprepared for the levels of poverty she witnessed just yards from tourist attractions.

She told "We saw new hotels being built right next to shanty towns. We visited a family who had absolutely nothing, and their only toilet was a hole in the ground. The average tourist might not see poverty so close up, but to be honest it was hard to ignore it. It's really made me think about things like not wasting food, and I'm planning to go back as a volunteer sometime."

After a visit to a local primary school the group collected £200, which will pay for a year's schooling for four children.

Kayleigh will now complete her final year's education at Bath Spa University, after which she will receive an Honours Degree. Then she wants to spend a year travelling and will return to the Gambia as a volunteer.

She added: "The Weston College course has been fantastic and the trip to the Gambia was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. It was a massive eye-opener."

Students from a wide variety of subjects including tourism management, computing, performing arts and education, gathered at the Parish Church of St John to have Foundation and Honours Degrees conferred on them.

Families and friends joined those graduating in a ceremony which mixed the formal with the inspirational. Guest speaker Antony Jinman, a Polar explorer who now lectures about his experiences to young people, told the gathering that graduation was 'the first day of the rest of your life'.

He said: "My dream was to become a Polar explorer and I made it come true. The secret to achieving your dream is to break down the steps into small chunks and today you have started that process by graduating."

Dr Paul Phillips, Weston College Principal and Chief Executive, said: "I would like to
congratulate everyone who has graduated this year for their hard work, dedication and commitment to their studies. Each year more and more students are choosing to study with us and they are reaping the rewards by achieving outstanding results and improving their job prospects. Long may this continue."


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