Washington Shearer was named the Festival of Learning's Return to Learning award winner for 2018, with Kate Hubbard and Hala Akhras highly commended in the Learning for Health and English Language Learning categories respectively.
Washington, 52, had hidden the fact that he couldn't read or write all his life, however with the help of Adult Education Wolverhampton he is now aiming to put that right.
While in prison Washington started to learn basic English and this gave him the motivation to learn more. On probation he decided it was time to turn his life around, and eventually found the confidence to sign up for an Entry Level 1 English class.
Although unsure at first, Washington soon discovered that he loved learning, and found himself looking forward to every class. He passed his exams and has progressed to Entry Level 2.
Washington can now connect and communicate with his family using social media and participate more fully in family life. His confidence and self-esteem have grown, and he now has ambitions to work as a mentor, sharing his story and helping others who are in a similar situation to the one he was in.
He said: "Studying is empowering me. I now believe in myself and have expectations for a much brighter future. I'm so happy I can now sit with my grandchildren and read them a story."
Washington's English teacher, Pamela Lavender, said: "Washington sees this as his second chance. He is always positive and willing and helps his peers whenever he can."
Kate was highly commended for the way that learning has transformed her life. Her world had collapsed when she was struck down with multiple life-changing illnesses. She felt destroyed mentally and physically, but her world reopened when her doctor recommended the 'Like Minds' classes offered by Adult Education Wolverhampton.
The 34 year old has since moved on to mainstream classes, including pottery, painting and drawing, flower arranging and hat making. The craft activities are helping with Kate's dexterity and her practical skills have developed tremendously. Learning has opened up new possibilities for a future career and Kate's long term plan is to work in a creative field, helping others in a similar situation to the one she has been in.
She said: "Adult Education Wolverhampton saved my life. I'm back on the right track, loving life and all that it might hold for me."
Kate's teacher, Bethune Matthews, said, "Despite the debilitating illness Kate is enduring, she comes into class each day with a glowing smile. She is positive, determined and a great motivator."
Hala, age 41, moved to England from Syria five years ago. She had studied English in Syria but the opportunities to use it in daily life were few and far between. Living in Wolverhampton, she hesitated to communicate because she was afraid of making mistakes in her speech. She soon became depressed and pessimistic about her future.
Hala decided to change her path and learn English again. She attended ESOL classes at Adult Education Wolverhampton, starting with Entry Level 3 and moved onto Level 1 and Level 2. She also enrolled on a Childcare course and progressed through various courses including GCSE maths and English, and is now on her way to becoming a Teaching Assistant.
She said: "I have much more courage and am now happy to communicate with people around me - I am no longer isolated. I believe that my family and I will have a much better life."
Hala's teacher, Rachel Orotayo, added: "Hala's decision to learn English was one that took a lot of courage and personal strength but was one she knew she needed to do to integrate in her new community."
Councillor Lynne Moran, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: "It's wonderful that the success of three of our adult learners has been recognised at the Festival of Learning; their stories show that anyone can benefit from learning.
"Adult Education Wolverhampton is only one of four adult education providers in the country to have been judged as Outstanding by Ofsted.
"Inspectors commended it for its exceptionally high achievement rates, high quality teaching, excellent resources, good levels of support and for making learning enjoyable, so there couldn't be a better time to enrol."
People can find out more about the courses available at Wolverhampton Adult Education Service's Open Day at the Foyer Building, Old Hall Street, Wolverhampton, on Saturday 23 June from 10am-2pm. For more information, please visit Type=links;Linkid=2102;Title=Adult Education Wolverhampton;Target=_blank; or call 01902 558180.
The Festival of Learning is led by Learning and Work Institute and celebrates the outstanding achievements of adults who have used learning to transform their lives.
- released: Friday 15 June, 2018