It was the perfect way to end Colston Girls’ School’s annual Prize Day event at the Hippodrome – students, staff, parents and carers, clapping and singing along to Kool and the Gang’s ‘Celebration’.
Because that is exactly what it was – a wonderful morning celebrating all students’ achievements and triumphs throughout the year.
It was also an occasion for students to hear inspiring messages from school staff, governors, and guest speaker, British Army Major, Marcelle Wright.
Addressing the audience with a powerful message on resilience, Major Wright spoke about the struggles she faced as a child and the difficulties she experienced as an adult with her career and mental health.
Major Wright joined the Army after university, but after seven years, decided to train as a dentist.
However, only two years into her training, she failed her resits and was asked to leave the course. She told the audience that ‘failing was a big hard lesson to learn’.
She then started working for a major bank in London, but after her partner was made redundant, she was signed off work with stress, depression and anxiety.
In 2016, Major Wright made the decision to return to the Army. She said: “It was the best decision I could have made because it made me the happiest I had been in a very long time.”
Reflecting on her own journey, Major Wright told the students that there are three vital things you need in life … motivation, learning and resilience. She added: “When you have all three then you will be as outstanding as your school wants you to be.”
Principal Mr John Whitehead spoke about the ‘exceptional’ exam results achieved over the summer and how proud he feels to be part of the CGS community.
Speaking to the students, he said: “You are our future leaders – the people who will change the world, who will be the first to step on Mars, who will save the human race, who will end world poverty.
“Every day I see you come through the door, I think what remarkable, compelling individuals you all are – I think to myself, here comes another leader.”
He also gave a glowing tribute to the staff body and thanked governors, parents and carers for their ongoing support to the school.
The audience also heard from Head Girl Lucy England, Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers Charles Griffiths and Chair of Governors Gillian Camm.
Dozens of prizes were received by students. Danlei Zhu collected the Principal’s Prize for Academic Achievement, Kristina Brocklebank picked up the Merchant Venturers’ Leaving Prize and Zainab Adelopo claimed the John James Award for Outstanding Achievement. Lucy Britton received the house prize awarded in memory of Tatiana Stankovic Davis.
Olivia Wright picked up three awards – the Edith Openshaw Prize for Mathematics, John James Foundation Prize for Further Mathematics and the Principal’s Prize for Services to the School. She has just started at Nottingham University, reading mathematics.
Olivia, who is planning to spend a year studying in Australia as part of her degree, said: “I was away at university when I received a text from my sister to say that I had won three awards – I couldn’t believe it, I felt so overwhelmed! It’s been great to come back and see everyone again today.”
Parents Loretta and Rob Wright said: “We’re immensely proud of what she’s achieved. She has worked so hard and really deserves this. We’re also incredibly grateful to the school – especially the maths department who gave her so much support.”
Former head girl Zainab Adelopo has just started at University College London, studying Hispanic Law. She not only claimed the award for outstanding achievement, but also the Old Girls’ Prize for Head Girl. She said: “It’s so surreal – I wasn’t expecting it at all. I didn’t realise until I picked up the programme today that I was receiving one of the major prizes. It’s been so nice to receive this.”
In addition to the Merchant Venturers’ Leaving Prize, Kristina Brocklebank received three other awards: The John James Foundation Prize for Physics, the Nora Killip Trophy for Music and the Lucy Knight Memorial Prize for Chemistry. She is studying astrophysics at Southampton University.
She said: “I’ve been coming to this ceremony for the last eight years, so I am feeling very proud to have received these four awards today. I was particularly surprised about the Merchant Venturers’ Leaving Prize because I didn’t know that it was such a big prize to achieve.”