Journey from college to life

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An inspirational story of a former student’s journey to leaving home after college was shared with this year’s crop of students graduating from Henshaws Specialist College in Harrogate at a recent ceremony.

Tessa Simpson, 23, graduated from the college last summer and this year her mother, Kate, shared her story with students as they move on to the next stage of their lives.

A college spokesman said: “Tessa was a day student at Henshaws for three years. She has autism and is generally non-verbal, although she does communicate with a little speech and through the PECS communication system.

“The discovery of a pituitary tumour when she was 16 led both to surgery and to a range of conditions, including severe visual impairment and diabetes insipidus, where her body cannot regulate intake or output of water, and she is unable to produce thyroxin, oestrogen or adrenaline, all of which impact her health. The tumour also affected her physical development generally.

“But now Tessa has left home and is living in an assisted-living shared house with other young people, two miles from her family home in Rawdon. It is a step her family always hoped she would be able to make but couldn’t see how.

“She learned how to prepare snacks, go shopping and cope with housework chores, as well as keeping up her interests in swimming, horse riding and cycling.” Kate explained: “It was always a concern to us about what would happen to Tess if we were no longer around, but now we know she is able to cope and she is really enjoying life away from home and I wanted to share her story with other students and their families who are facing similar challenges!”

College Principal Angela North said: “We do keep in touch with former students and their families and it is always tremendously exciting to hear such positive news so we are delighted that Kate and Tessa have shared their story.”

This year’s graduation ceremony saw another 13 Henshaws Specialist College students embarking on the next stage of their lives, with two of them going on to supported internships in businesses.

Mayor of Harrogate, Coun Anne Jones presented awards to:

The Maxine Foster Award, given to the student who “most embodies the spirit of enthusiasm for life and living”, went to Lauren Allum.

The Joshua Rayner Award for the student with a “unique and enthusiastic approach to their learning” was presented to Joshua Hutchinson for his creativity and motivation in the arts.

The Jessica Fielding Award for “making a positive impact on others” was won by David Offord, for being supportive of his peers and staff.

The Gillian Lawrence Award for “the student who has overcome personal obstacles and been a positive role model for others” went to Jake Vicars who has completed a Supported Internship pilot programme.

The Enterprise Award was won by a first-year student, Sophie Foster, whose design graced the leavers’ t-shirts.