Picture of Jodie Cunningham during our graduation CeremonyUniversity Centre St Helens recently celebrated the incredible academic achievements of over 80 graduates during their annual Graduation Ceremony at St Helens Parish Church.

The graduates were joined by family, friends, academic staff and this year’s Honoured Guest, St Helens and England Women’s Rugby League Team Captain and sports advocate, Jodie Cunningham.

The Class of 2023 processed through St Helens town centre, led by the Town Crier, Parr Band and Valley Brass Band, much to the delight of passers-by.

Once the graduates arrived at the church, CEO and Principal, Simon Pierce, opened proceedings with his address, before welcoming Jodie Cunningham to the stage.

Jodie shared some incredible career highlights with graduates, including when she recently made history by becoming the first woman to lift the Challenge Cup trophy at Wembley Stadium, after leading the St Helens Women’s Team to victory. Now a veteran of three World Cups, Jodie’s passion for creating new opportunities for young girls and women to play rugby league shone through her speech.

Jodie told graduates: “It is an honour to be here today to celebrate with you all, not least because I was unable to attend my own graduation ceremony due to being at the World Cup!”

Jodie added: “The people who surround you are so important. There are always things we face when the odds are against us, but with the right attitude and support from the people around us, we can achieve it.”

Picture of a student recieving their graduation certificateEach year, special awards are gifted to graduating students who have overcome adversity and have demonstrated resilience, dedication, and determination to succeed.

This year’s St Helens Rotary Club Award was presented to Theatre and Performance degree graduate, Alex Allen. Despite managing the daily challenges of diabetes and facing other significant hurdles in his life, Alex demonstrated exceptional resilience and unwavering commitment to his studies, including volunteering his time to both his peers and community organisation, St Helens Deafness Centre, to share his passion for theatre with others.

The Microbiology Award was presented to graduate, Rebecca Cadmen. Rebecca has wanted to pursue a career in science from a young age but after suffering from ill health and other personal events, her journey hasn’t been straightforward. Despite the challenges she has faced in her life, she has never given up on her academic journey, which is a true testament to her resilience and passion for science.

The Brian Dean Award, a new addition to this year’s ceremony, was introduced in honour of former Deputy Principal and colleague, Brian Dean. Brian had a lifelong commitment to learning, with a firm belief in the power of education changing lives.

This Award was presented to Microbiology degree graduate, Natalee Northall. Natalee has faced personal adversity over the years whilst studying, including balancing being a mum of seven, caring for two children with learning difficulties and disabilities and sadly losing her mum to cancer but throughout it all, Natalee has remained committed to her goals and now plans to undertake a master’s degree in the future.

Graduates, families, friends, and academic staff returned to campus for a canapé reception, served by St Helens College’s catering and hospitality students, who gained valuable work experience and provided first-class service to guests.

View our full gallery from our graduation ceremony

Graduation Ceremony 2023