A Level Student Profiles
Humanitarian volunteer Hywel Phillips, 22 of Thornhill is following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and will be the third generation in his family to study Chemistry at University.
Five years ago Hywel was looking at a very different future. He passed all his GCSEs at Llanishen High School and stayed on in sixth form but lacked the motivation to succeed. After his interest in education waned throughout his teenage years, Hywel left school at the age of 17, feeling despondent about higher education and unsure which path to follow.
Hywel went into full-time work as a Sales Executive for Northmace & Hendon – the leading manufacturer of hotel amenity equipment and after a year, was promoted to the Export Department. His role was to liaise with distributors from over 40 countries worldwide including India, the UAE and Russia.
Despite the success Hywel achieved through working and earning a respectable salary, at the age of 20 he decided to return to education to study A Levels on a full-time basis at Cardiff and Vale College (formerly known as Coleg Glan Hafren and Barry College). He said, “I had several friends who had attended the College in the past, particularly studying science subjects, and they said many positive things about the College and its teaching. I was also welcomed as a mature student, with my starting age of 20 being no problem to enrol for A-levels amongst 16-year old school leavers.” In his first year at AS Level, Hywel studied Photography, Maths and Chemistry. He then opted for A2 Levels in Chemistry, Maths and an AS in Physics and Further Maths.
Hywel said, “My interest in the sciences began at a young age, as I was keen to explore the natural processes of the world around us. I had great admiration for my grandfather who was an Industrial Chemist and able to explain seemingly complex matters to me with great confidence and ease. I can remember buying science kits and watching crystals grow and ice melt.”
In summer 2010, Hywel helped deliver aid throughout the Balkan region in South-Eastern Europe, giving much-needed help to refugees from the Kosovo War. Hywel said, “The poverty of these people was a reminder as to how chemistry could play a part in improving living conditions, an example being advances in water purification. An understanding of the natural sciences is vital in the modern world, as humans strive to protect our finite resources and make important advances in the medical, chemical and biological fields. I believe chemistry to be an immensely rewarding subject, in which there are still boundaries to cross and barriers to push. Indeed there are still many peculiarities yet to be explained. By studying chemistry at degree level, I hope to set a firm foundation upon which I can pursue a career in the chemical industry.”
Hywel has gained a place at Southampton University, where he will study a four year MChem Chemistry degree after gaining an A* in Chemistry and Maths, A in his AS Physics and B in AS Further Maths. He hopes to then complete a PhD and find work within a specialist field of Chemistry.
After doing some extra English classes, kite-making Sarunas left his home country of Lithuania at the age of 17 to continue his studies towards a degree in the UK. He finished Secondary School with an average mark of 9.4 out of 10. Now residing in Rumney, 20 year old Sarunas is a step closer to studying at Cardiff University.
Last year, Sarunas won the Welsh Baccalaureate Learner of the Year in the College awards for his communication, organisational and team working skills and this year he was winner of the Faculty Student of the Year Award which praises students with outstanding performance throughout the year in their chosen subjects.
“From early childhood I was interested in a broad range of science fields such as aeronautics and chemistry.” said Sarunas. “My interest in science began when I found science books in my father’s bookcase; he was a great fan of popular science, electronics and history. When I started to read, I was fascinated by how the myriad of things have connections with each other.
“During my school years my father and I did many interesting scientific experiments such as producing hydrogen gas using electrolysis. One of our main hobbies was kites. We never bought a kite in a store; it was our enjoyment to make them and that is where I started to develop my problem solving skills.”
When Sarunas first arrived at Cardiff and Vale College (when it was known as Coleg Glan Hafren) he was unable to enrol on the AS Biology course as he didn’t have his GCSE English Language. After attaining his GCSE English, Sarunas has been able to fast track his A Level Biology this year – doing AS and A2 in one year, along with studying for A2 Chemistry and Maths.
His biology lecturer, Ceri Moore said, “Sarunas has been an exceptional student throughout the year and I believe he’s had 100% attendance in Biology. He’s originally from Lithuania so I guess he’s had a few extra hurdles to cover from other students. He’s a fantastic and motivated student.”
If determination was a person then he would be Ryeen Price. 19 year old Ryeen, who is half-Iranian and lives in Canton in Cardiff, went to Cathays High School and didn’t achieve his full potential gaining only three GCSEs above grade C. Ryeen felt that certain speech and language difficulties held him back in school, he said “I left school in order to experience college life at Cardiff and Vale College. I was hoping to flourish in the college atmosphere and be treated more like an adult within the college environment.”
Ryeen has been at Cardiff and Vale College since 2008 (when it was known as Coleg Glan Hafren) when he began studying AS Maths while re-sitting his GCSE English Language, ICT and Core Science. He achieved an A grade in AS Maths and opted to study A2 Maths along with AS Welsh Baccalaureate and once again GCSE English Language. Ryeen gained a B grade in his A2 Maths, missing an A grade by only 1%. While thriving in Maths, Ryeen failed to reach his longed for grade C in GCSE English Language and has re-sat for the fourth time this year, as well as opting for AS World Development, AS Further Maths and A2 Welsh Baccalaureate.
Ryeen said, “I found teaching staff, my personal tutor and the student support staff in Cardiff and Vale College extremely friendly. They treated me as I was hoping to be treated, with respect and as an intelligent adult. This helped me feel comfortable during my studies and I was encouraged to pursue a university degree at the end of my A Level studies.”
Up until recently, Ryeen was an active member of the Sherman Youth Theatre and as a young boy dreamt of becoming an actor. He gave up his membership to concentrate on his college studies and with the guidance of his college lecturers and mother, Ryeen has gained the confidence to apply to university and has decided to take up a course in Applied Maths and Statistics at Aberystwyth University.
Since beginning her journey at Cardiff and Vale College in 2007 (when it was known as Coleg Glan Hafren) self-confessed book worm Sophie Ponsford has gained AS Psychology and History, A2 Law, Sociology, Film Studies, Religious Studies, English Literature, English Language and Media Studies.
After completing her GCSEs at Llanedeyrn High School, 20 year old Sophie from Llanedeyrn, Cardiff, decided to come to Cardiff and Vale College for the approachable, friendly atmosphere and the student support and good work ethic on offer.
Sophie said “Teachers go above and beyond to help you and find a way for you to understand. Overall Cardiff and Vale College has helped me become more confident in my abilities and encouraged me to think outside the box so to speak. I am definitely not the same quiet person I was when I came here.
“I like reading and writing stories and seeing why people make choices so Media Studies and English Literature were perfect for me as you can make assumptions or produce theories about why one choice was made over another and what that could mean for the text or media form.”
Sophie received an A for Media Studies, A for English Literature and a B for English Language and dreams of becoming a top-selling author.
Zambian born Isaac Mangala came to Wales with his family in 2003 at the age of eleven. With a dream of going to University and following in the footsteps of his siblings to gain a Masters Degree, Isaac was understandably disappointed when he didn’t do as well as expected in his GCSEs at Rumney High School.
Throughout his studies at Cardiff and Vale College (formerly known as Coleg Glan Hafren) Isaac has been working at Charltons Estate Agents and doing hospitality work in the Millennium Stadium to help fund himself.
Now, at the age of eighteen, Isaac is on his way to university to study Computer Science. He said, “Cardiff and Vale College has helped me achieve my dream and does over and above for all their students. The College is true to its words and offers so much help and support to students.”
Isaac came to Cardiff and Vale College (formerly Coleg Glan Hafren) in 2008, to re-sit a handful of GCSEs and begin his AS studies in Maths and ICT. He then opted for A2 ICT and AS Business Studies before moving on to fast track Media Studies (which means completing the AS and A2 in one year) and GCSE English Language.
Isaac said “My parents are so proud of me and to pass my exams is such a big achievement. I hope to one day follow in the footsteps of my brother and sister and complete my Masters Degree.”
Ewa came to Wales two years ago from Poland with no money in her back pocket, but with the dream of studying at a British university. She got a job as a receptionist in a car showroom and after failing to get into Cardiff University last year with an 88% pass rate from her Polish equivalent to A Levels, she decided to work on her A Levels again at Cardiff and Vale College (formerly known as Coleg Glan Hafren).
20 year old Ewa said “I was pleased with the teachers in college, the whole experience was much different to what I expected and what I was used to in Poland. In Cardiff and Vale College there are always people around that will help and I find it very encouraging.”
Ewa received an A, B and C for her AS Maths, Psychology and Media Studies respectively and hopes to study a Maths degree at university after completing her A Levels at Cardiff and Vale College next year. Ewa said “Because I have returned to college I feel like I have had time to consider who I really am and what I want to do, plus the support of careers advisors was very helpful too.”
Mohammed Ahmed left Habergham High School in Burnley without any GCSEs. After deciding to return to education as a mature student at the age of 23, Mohammed came to live 200 miles away from his hometown of Burnley, Lancashire to study on the part-time A Level Maths course at Cardiff and Vale College.
26 year old Mohammed said, “There were very few places where it was possible to achieve an A Level in Mathematics in one year whilst attending part-time. I am glad to have chosen Cardiff and Vale College as the teaching was excellent.”
Mohammed began his journey back into education with a HND in Business and Finance at Blackburn College, where he received 13 distinctions and 3 merits. He also studied for his GCSE English, attending classes once a week and studied via the self-study route for his GCSE Maths. He gained an A and A*respectively.
Once Mohammed moved to Cardiff, he was studying statistics and core mathematics in two evening classes per week to gain his full Maths A Level. He said, “I came to live in Cardiff with another friend of mine who I met on the HND course. He was also interested in studying for the A Level in Mathematics. This helped as I had a friend with me as well as someone to share the bills with!”
While in Cardiff, Mohammed also studied for his Economics A Level via self-study and sat his exams at Cardiff Academy. He aspires to work in the Financial Services Industry and his next venture is to go and live over 300 miles from home in Kent for a year, to study at the University of Kent for his BA Honours top-up Degree in Business.