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UEL student Allison Vitalis named NEON Student of the Year

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Allison Vitalis selected for honour for her work as a UEL student ambassador

University of East London (UEL) student Allison Vitalis has won Student of the Year in the 2019 National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) Awards.

Allison was selected over 90 other applicants primarily for her work as a student ambassador, and for her contribution to the University of East London's widening participation team. Since her foundation year, Allison has supported the widening participation team in designing and delivering curriculum-related sessions about psychology to young people.

Allison said, "I was thrilled to be nominated by UEL for this award and was very surprised to be the winner of NEON’s student of the year as there was a high level of nominees from other universities across the country. I thank UEL for realising my accomplishments and NEON for the acknowledgement.”

The NEON Awards provide a platform to celebrate the successes and accomplishments of NEON’s members and their learners in widening access to higher education and enabling social mobility across the UK.

Allison, 43, from Hackney, is a mature student at UEL doing a bachelor’s degree in clinical and community psychology. She is also a student ambassador with UEL’s widening participation programme. 

Besides her studies and being a single parent to Brandon, 18 and Ariètte, 7, Allison has found the time to get involved in a number of volunteer projects and is a strong advocate of supporting victims of knife crime. She hopes to use her clinical and community psychology degree to further provide support to her community. 

She said, “I specifically want to help the victims of knife crime including parents who have lost children to knife crime, advocating for their rights as victims and young people at risk and affected by this type of crime.

"Receiving this award has given me the confidence needed to see me through this last hurdle of my undergraduate degree to achieving academic success and the motivation to continue my dedicated work within the community that I care so much about. This enables me to use my knowledge and academic practices to supporting the victims of knife crime, working together towards eliminating knife crime and youth violence.”

Allison is a UEL student representative and also a social coach with the UN-accredited charity Youth Charter, plus a volunteer project director of The Charlie Burns Foundation and The Shaquan Sammy-Plummer Foundation.

Justine Wright, UEL partnership manager, praised Allison’s achievements. She said, “Allison is an exceptional student juggling her university studies with being a parent, alongside working as a student ambassador, plus all her community work.

“Allison wholeheartedly embodies UEL’s commitment to inclusiveness and widening access to university.  Throughout her studies Allison has worked extensively with young people and mature learners from widening access backgrounds – most notably with her work as a student ambassador delivering psychology taster sessions and her civic engagement work tackling knife crime.

"The widening participation team at UEL is small but has a big reach and they would not have been able to deliver or work with a fraction of the students they have done in the last three years without her support. She is an invaluable member of our ambassador programmes and has a wealth of knowledge about east London and its young people.

“We are delighted that Allison has received formal recognition for her contributions to underrepresented and marginalised groups.”

Allison’s future goal is to obtain her professional doctorate in clinical psychology. She plans to take a one-year break after she graduates in November 2019 to dedicate this time to shape both foundations and community projects and fulfil objectives, before returning to UEL for postgraduate study.

Following the awards, Allison has been invited to be a speaker at two external events - the Access HE Student Ambassador Forum and the NEON Symposium.

The NEON Student of the Year Awards were presented by Lord Watson of Invergowrie at the Palace of Westminster in London on 2 May. The event was hosted by Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Further Education and Skills.

Photograph: Allison is pictured receiving the NEON Student of the Year Award from Lord Watson.