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Photo 1 Ellisha celebrates award win

  • Ellisha Soanes from West Suffolk College recognised for championing equality, diversity and inclusion

Ellisha Soanes, a health and social care lecturer and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at West Suffolk College, has won this year’s highly coveted Association of Colleges’ (AoC) President’s Award.

The accolade is awarded for the unique and profound impact an individual has had on their college and community.

Ellisha’s work has been vast over the past 18 months – which began following the murder of George Floyd in the US and the Black Lives Matter protests across the world in 2020. She started a conversation with her students about racism, encouraging them to explore what equality, diversity and inclusion meant to them and their own experiences. This led to a host of high-profile events, student-led campaigns and funding from the European Social Fund and PLACE 21 to employ a new group of students and staff at the college to be ambassadors for equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), of which Ellisha is one. The EDI ambassadors have embedded black history into the curriculum, so it is taught all year round.

Ellisha Soanes, Health and social care lecturer and Equality Diversity and Inclusion Lead at West Suffolk College said: “I’m honoured to be recognised and I would like to thank the College, our supportive partners and fantastic EDI team. Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world - we can always do more and I hope others follow our lead.”

Photo 2 Ellisha Soanes with AOC Presidents award

AoC President, Sally Dicketts said: “I’m delighted to be able to present Ellisha Soanes with President’s Award 2021. Getting to tell Ellisha’s story at our first in-person conference since the pandemic was a great honour.

“Ellisha’s work to bring about positive change with her students on equality, diversity and inclusion has had a profound impact and becoming the first college in the country to teach black history all year round is an amazing achievement.

“Her passion and enthusiasm for equality, diversity and inclusion and co-creating awareness-raising events and projects with students has had a powerful impact on young people, staff and the wider community. The sheer amount of work undertaken in such a short time is impressive and the ambassador programme that was launched recently will ensure this hard work has a long-lasting impact, creating a legacy Ellisha should be proud of.”

Dr Nikos Savvas, CEO of Eastern Colleges Group (which includes West Suffolk College and Abbeygate Sixth Form in Bury St Edmunds and One Sixth Form in Ipswich).

“Ellisha is a truly inspirational leader in our community. Her work and her passion means that she is leading from the front, as she listens to students and generates the discussions that matter in a way that resonates. There is always more we can do, but Ellisha’s leadership has changed the way we view and approach Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. By doing this she is changing attitudes and shaping futures, I am incredibly proud of her achievements.”