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College manager going back to school for reunion

A COLLEGE manager is hoping to recruit former school friends back into the classroom to help celebrate a Teesside Academy’s tenth anniversary.

Samantha Hockney 1Stockton Sixth Form College marketing manager Samantha Hockney is one of hundreds of former students who are planning to re-unite with old classmates and teachers at The King’s Academy ten year celebration.

Samantha, who has kept in touch with many of her old classmates since leaving the academy, is now busy spreading the word for people to get in touch and register for the reunion party.

I heard about the reunion at The King’s through Facebook and thought it was a great idea,” said Samantha, 25, of Norton.

The academy has gone through a really successful journey since I started there ten years ago and it will be great to get everyone together and find out what they have been up to since then.”

Samantha, who studied English language and media communications at Newcastle University before travelling the world and undertaking work experience at The Times newspaper, now works with students looking to further their own education at Stockton Sixth Form College.

My job here is perfect,” she said. “I originally wanted to be either a teacher or a journalist and now I get to oversee the college’s public relations, their marketing and social media and also get to work with the students so it’s an ideal mix.

“Looking back I think I caught the bug for English from Mrs Granville, my English teacher at The King’s Academy, who was passionate about the subject.

“That really sowed the seed for my love of writing which has continued ever since.”

To celebrate ten years since The King’s Academy opened it is hosting a reunion for all former pupils and staff on Saturday, April 26 2014 at 3pm in the main school hall.

I’ve been looking at the reunion website and it’s great to see that so many people are planning to turn up,” added Samantha.

Former students and staff can register their place at the reunion, and find out more information, at www.thekingsacademyreunion.org.uk

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Students set to volunteer to help asylum seekers

Students are planning voluntary work with asylum seekers after hearing about the plight of people a charity calls “living ghosts”.

Open Door 1Christian charity Open Door North East provides help for people on Teesside who have come to the UK to seek asylum and find themselves on the streets unable to work or claim state support.

Manager Paul Catterall visited The King’s Academy, in Coulby Newham, to tell sixth form students about the charity’s work, which was originally started by members of Jubilee Church Teesside, in Stockton, in 2001.

The church found they were starting to get visitors from other nations, which led them to realise that there was a wider community of people from all sorts of backgrounds out there who were struggling,” explained Paul.

He told the students that once an application for asylum in the UK is approved and refugee status is granted individuals are entitled to statutory support. Until then they are given a place to live and a subsistence allowance to live on.

If their asylum application is unsuccessful, they are left homeless and in real destitution with no statutory provision and are not even allowed to work or provide for themselves,” he explained.

The church originally formed a separate charity to offer asylum seekers and refugees a safe place to talk, have a meal, meet new friends and take part in games evenings.

Later a church member loaned his house for a year so the charity could provide accommodation to those in need.

Demand for the service has since increased so much that Open Door is now the North East’s biggest specialist provider of housing with 16 houses in Middlesbrough with 50 refugee tenants. They pay rent, which, in turn, allows the charity to provide 17 free beds for asylum seekers with no support. Open Door also runs night shelters in partnership with seven local churches.

Politics teacher at The King’s Academy Jenni Yuill said it was important students understood the issues on their doorstep.

These countries may seem a long way away but the fact that people are fleeing to come here to try and start a new life makes it a reality that’s very local to us.

“Every year our sixth form students get involved in community work and having heard Paul talk some are interested in volunteering with Open Door and learning more about the issues it’s addressing.”

The charity also operates drop-ins for men and women, Sew to Work, a course for women to channel their craft skills into making products which they can sell, and a work club to help refugees with their CVs and to find employment.

We serve all people regardless of gender, age, race, religion, culture or lifestyle. We take them from a point where they are a homeless asylum seeker to a point where they can set up on their own,” said Paul.

“It’s a journey where we try to empower them and give them the confidence to make what decisions they can and, for some, that might be returning voluntarily to where they came from. We hold their hand and walk with them.”

Teesside was chosen by the Home Office as one of the areas to disperse asylum seekers to and it receives people from many different countries including Eritrea, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Somalia and Congo.