Mum of two ‘perfect recipient’ of annual award in memory of Whitehead lecturer

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A mature student who is progressing to university to train as a nurse has been described as the “ideal recipient” of an annual award in memory of a Whitehead lecturer.

Kellie-Ann Winchester (31), a mother of two, completed an Access to University Diploma at Northern Regional College and will begin an Adult Nursing undergraduate degree at Queen’s University in September.

The south Belfast resident was recently presented with the third Barbara MacAuley Personal Achievement Award. Barbara was a former member of the college’s Access and Essential Skills team at Newtownabbey who died in 2021.

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Congratulating Kellie-Ann on winning the award, Barbara’s brother Tom said she was an ideal recipient as someone who returned to education as a mature student.

Kellie-Ann with college staff Gemma McGranaghan and Martin Hay, Kellie-Ann's son and daughter Kobi and Lola Burgess, Kellie’s partner James Spurle, Stephanie McMullan, Liam McMullan, Tom McMullan, Paul Stinson and Andrew MacAuley. Photo submitted.Kellie-Ann with college staff Gemma McGranaghan and Martin Hay, Kellie-Ann's son and daughter Kobi and Lola Burgess, Kellie’s partner James Spurle, Stephanie McMullan, Liam McMullan, Tom McMullan, Paul Stinson and Andrew MacAuley. Photo submitted.
Kellie-Ann with college staff Gemma McGranaghan and Martin Hay, Kellie-Ann's son and daughter Kobi and Lola Burgess, Kellie’s partner James Spurle, Stephanie McMullan, Liam McMullan, Tom McMullan, Paul Stinson and Andrew MacAuley. Photo submitted.

He added: “I hope Kellie-Ann’s success will inspire others. Barbara was passionate about the benefits of lifelong learning and how it could help people achieve their full potential.

"This award is a fitting way of remembering Barbara’s selfless nature and commitment to her students, as well as recognising the importance of the Access and Essential Skills programme.

“So many people of all ages benefit from further education and the sector doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves for the life-changing opportunities it offers.”

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Welcoming Barbara’s family, Gemma McGranaghan, curriculum area manager for Access, Health and Social Care, said she was delighted they were maintaining the strong link Barbara had with the college.

Selfless Nature

She said: “This is a fitting way of ensuring that Barbara’s selfless nature and commitment to her students will be remembered.

"Kellie-Anne is such a deserving winner and I’m delighted that her dedication and hard work has paid dividends and she is going to study nursing at university this autumn.”

Kellie-Ann, who left school at the age of 16 with just basic GCSEs, admitted when she was a teenager, she was not at all interested in learning but always felt she would “get back into it” when she was older.

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Mum to Kobi (8) and Lola (9), she decided when her children were still quite young, it was time to get back to the books.

“My first step was to get Maths and English qualifications, so in 2016, I enrolled at the Northern Regional College’s Newtownabbey campus to do Essential Skills classes as a part-time student and followed this up in 2021 by doing Essential Skills ICT.

“I realised that the Access Diploma could be my pathway to university, so I applied to do the Diploma in 2002.”

Around this time, Kellie-Ann was helping to nurse her terminally ill mother at home, and this was her first direct interaction with healthcare workers. The experience was to encourage her to consider nursing as a career.

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“I had many conversations with the nurses who were caring for my mother, and I was always impressed by their care, dedication, and professionalism. Until then, I had never considered becoming a nurse, but they were such good role models, you could say I was inspired by their example.”

Kellie-Ann, who is the first person in her immediate family to go to university, added: “I was over the moon to be accepted to study Nursing at Queen’s. I feel that studying at Northern Regional College has really prepared me and I am really looking forward to starting in September.”