Victoria Griffiths is University of Plymouth Student of the Year

Victoria Griffiths has just won the University of Plymouth’s Student of the Year Award.  She not only overcame a serious speech impediment during her time at Somerset College, but went on to win Gold for UK Skills and then to win overall Gold for Europe.

Victoria, from Abergavenny, studied on the BA Hons Fashion Design course at Somerset College and has just been awarded a First Class Degree with Honours 2009.

College staff encouraged her to enrol on the McGuire Programme, a course which supports and improves the speech of those who stutter/stammer.   Gareth Gates of Pop Idol fame, was one of their more well known and successful course graduates.  Over the summer Holidays at the end of her first year, Vicki attended the intensive speech therapy course, returning to her second year with renewed vigour, and control over her speech, she came back to speak to a group of 180 staff and students – a major achievement that demonstrated her determination to succeed.

Gary Mills, Fashion Lecturer who nominated Victoria for the award said:  ‘Vicky would push herself forward at all opportunities to participate in group discussions, she would pop her head around the door of my office to discuss her latest research and designs, she was absorbing every drop of her education like a sponge and would practice, practice, practice speaking under pressure.’

It was during that second year of her study that her designs and application to take part in UK Skills won her a place as a finalist. The project involved design, application and production within the fashion industry; she competed in a team of two people to represent Somerset College and Plymouth University. This process carried over several months with seminars, and stages at different venues, through a process of elimination to find and overall winning team to then go onto to represent fashion skills for the United Kingdom in Europe. The rest is now history.  Her achievements continued with becoming, a finalist for young designer of the year 2008, winning a bursary award from Taunton Dean Borough council to travel and research Welsh coal mines, as part of her final thesis and the inspiration for her well received collection at London Graduate Fashion week.

Finally she was awarded an industry prize for a stated period of paid placement and freelance design work with Chill Cheater, based in North Devon; her first foot in the door and the realisation of her goals.

Gary also says:  ‘I feel Victoria has overcome personal difficulties to become a high academic achiever and an excellent ambassador for the college and university. She is an inspiration to both her peers and to me her tutor, she showed with determination and support what can be achieved through education, I’m glad I had a chance to facilitate and witness this.’

Vicky says: 'My stammer was such a barrier, and prevented me from excelling in my higher education, and I quickly identified it would hinder my professional career too. With support from the College, I found a course that gives me a way to control my speech, and the fear of speaking situations, so my stammer no longer holds me back.    I was no longer afraid to meet new people, enter competitions and present myself and communicate my work.  Winning the Euroskills gold medal, and being short listed for young designer of the year 2008 was so exciting and such an honour, and it would never have been possible without the support of the College, the Mcguire programme and my peers.'