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Former Croydon College student Julius Lewis, who finished his studies this year, has been shortlisted in the Apprentice of the Year category of the Association of Colleges (AoC) Student of the Year Awards.

Julius was a level 3 Contracting Construction Operations Apprentice and has been at the College for more than four years, previously doing a bricklaying course.

He said he was “very proud” to have been shortlisted for the award, adding: “Everyone is talented in their own way, but I feel like I had a lot of challenges and for me to overcome those and not quit, I feel like that’s what probably gave me the extra edge over other people.”

He added: “I’m very grateful to the teachers who put me through. It was also nice the Principal of the College (Caireen Mitchell) personally came and congratulated me and gave me a handwritten note. Things like that push me to be successful.”

Julius also thanked his tutors for helping him develop as a person and giving him the confidence to pursue his dream of having his own construction company – although things haven’t always been easy.

“When I first started my bricklaying, I was a bit lazy. I used to leave College at lunchtime, and I wasn’t serious about my long-term goals,” Julius said. “But I realised that that wasn’t the path for success and Croydon College – teachers, the staff and everyone I came into contact with – built me up from year to year and helped me become a bit more confident and taught me about being consistent.

“Staff are really supportive and like to pinpoint what you’re struggling with so they can assist you with these individual things, not just generalised issues. I’ve had a lot of challenges along the way and all the teachers tried their hardest to help me strive in what I needed to do to overcome the challenges I had. I realised the end goal was reachable because at first, I really didn’t think it was.

For prospective and current students, Julius has the following advice: “Always be determined by your goals. Never get distracted by someone who doesn’t want to do as good as you. If you’ve got something to do, do it now instead of later on. There will always be obstacles in the way, for anybody doing anything. So, as long as you can overcome the obstacles in the correct manner, you’ll be striving for success.”

Nicola Tarry, Head of Apprenticeships at Croydon College, said: “A huge congratulations to Julius! The award shortlist is a testament to his determination and talent. He has been a student at the College for more than four years. I met him on my first day here and I’ve taught him ever since, so it’s a bit sad to see him leave now. However, I wish him all the best and I am delighted Croydon College has played such a part in his exciting career prospects.”

The annual AoC Student of the Year Awards recognise the outstanding and innovative practices provided by Further Education colleges and their students achievements.

Finalists will be announced at the AoC Annual Conference in November.

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