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Shelby Mc Cloud York College

Inspirational York College Pathways student Shelby McCloud has won the AoC Young Student of the Year award

FORMER York College student Shelby McCloud has won a prestigious national award in recognition of her campaigning to change public perceptions and laws regarding Down Syndrome.

Shelby, 18, was named the Association of Colleges’ Young Student of the Year at a presentation dinner, held at The ICC in Birmingham.

The Stillingfleet teenager, who has Down Syndrome herself, studied the College’s Pathways to Learning Programme for two years after leaving Barlby High School in 2021.

She attended the awards ceremony with her mum Suzanne, Acting York College & University Centre Chief Executive and Principal Ken Merry and other senior members of staff.

On winning the award Shelby said: “I’m totally overwhelmed and so excited to have won the Young Student of the Year award. Not only is this a win for me, but a win for inclusion, especially in the Down Syndrome community. I am thrilled to be able to show what people with Down Syndrome can achieve.”

Mum Suzanne McCloud gave her thanks to York College for their dedication in helping Shelby realise her full potential and added: “This is not only a personal achievement, but it shows the world what people with Down Syndrome can achieve, given the right support and time to do so. As a family, we are incredibly proud of Shelby.”

The AoC Young Student of the Year category was open to anyone aged between 16 and 18 and aims to celebrate truly unique students from AoC member colleges across England who deserve recognition and will go on to inspire others.

The Awards had five categories in total with the winners of each going on to attend a celebration event in London next spring.

Shelby’s work as part of the “You Can’t Put Me Down Syndrome” campaign has gained backing from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as well as pledges of support from 60 of his fellow MPs.

She also presented to the Houses of Parliament, along with 13 other Down Syndrome campaigners, to add representation to the debate about an expectant mother’s right to termination on the grounds of Down Syndrome.

The campaign has gained exposure on Sky Sports, Sky News and Metro websites and Shelby’s work has also featured on BBC News, on the front cover of the Metro newspaper and on adverts in a variety of outlets, including Toni & Guy hair salons and David Lloyd Gyms.

On top of her campaigning, Shelby has undertaken personal challenges designed to raise both awareness and funding for the “Positive About Down Syndrome” charity for which she has raised thousands of pounds.

This included completing 21 personal challenges over 21 days in the build up to World Down Syndrome Day. The number 21 relates to the additional chromosome (Chromosome 21) that is found in people with Down Syndrome.

Among the challenges were solving 21 maths questions and learning 21 spellings. She has also recently walked 1,800 metres a day for 21 days to celebrate her 18th birthday.

Shelby and her family have always believed passionately that she had a right to study at a mainstream school with access to the same opportunities as everyone else.

On her time at York College, Shelby said: “I loved my time at College and in particular the relationships I built with my tutors and friends. The College supported me to become the strong, fiercely independent young woman I am now, and I learnt so many life skills. I was always embraced for my individuality and what positive traits I could bring to the group.”

Prior to the final, Shelby returned to her former college and, on being asked why she believed campaigning was so important, she explained: “I want to change the narrative from negative to positive. People with Down Syndrome shouldn’t be written off. They have the same hopes and dreams as other people.”

A York College spokesperson said: “Shelby is an amazing, young person. She has engaged in local and national campaigning about the way people with Down Syndrome are viewed by society and across the College community.

“She has been an active advocate for Down Syndrome not being seen as a disability but, instead, an alternative ability. Shelby’s determination to live independently, follow her dreams in terms of what she wants to do with her life, and to make a difference to society is impressive and inspirational to people across the College and the wider community.”