UHI Moray's James Smith Award for 'outstanding dedication' is presented to Buckie's James Lester Heady
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AN AWARD for outstanding dedication has been presented to an autistic Buckie man who has had a life-changing experience at UHI Moray.
Jonathan Lester Heady was – in his own words – nervous and retreating when he started at UHI Moray six years ago, with anxiety preventing him from getting the bus on his own.
However, he has come so far that he was able to deliver two speeches to capacity crowds at Elgin Town Hall as part of the graduation ceremony on Friday, October 6.
After the second of the speeches, he was presented with the James Smith Award, which is given to a student who has shown outstanding dedication to their course, fellow students and local community.
Speaking to a crowd of his fellow students, Jonathan said: "Before I came to UHI Moray, I was ever so stressed about going to unfamiliar places and meeting new people. But that has totally changed.
"In 2018, I was a very different person. I was even unable to take a bus by myself. I was so anxious, shy, nervous and withdrawn.
"I later found out about the incredible opportunities that UHI Moray has to offer. And that consisted of the various work placements I undertook at various businesses throughout Moray.
"Eventually, I was able to amass so much confidence that I'm now able to come up on stage and deliver this somewhat decent speech to you all!"
Jonathan began his college experience in 2017 with UHI Moray's Supported Learning department and completed the Preparing to Work (SCQF Level 3) course this year.
He was full of praise for the lecturers and members of staff. He added: "I am truly honoured to have been a part of UHI Moray.
"I am wholly indebted to everyone I've met. On behalf of all the students in Moray College UHI, I would like to thank all the lecturers who have succeeded in shaping me into the person I am today."
James Smith's parents created an award in memory of their son, who was Scotland's leading physically disabled bowler. He studied multimedia at UHI Moray.