A FIRST-CLASS student who won a prestigious award and graduated with top marks dedicated her achievements to her late mum.
Textiles student Vicky Bown won the Joe Cole award at Cleveland College of Art and Design for her creative wallpaper designs.
The award was the mark of an inspirational year of work for 21-year-old Vicky, who just nine months earlier had suffered a terrible family tragedy.
While Vicky was in Newcastle on a work placement, she found out that her mum, Denise, had been rushed into hospital suffering from a stomach ulcer.
The mum-of-three was on a life support machine for five-and-a-half weeks, but sadly lost her fight for life in September, 2009, aged just 53.
Denise, who worked as a cleaner in Hartlepool, had no health problems beforehand, but died of septicemia.
Vicky had spent countless hours at her mum’s bedside, visiting twice a day every day while Denise was ill.
After her mum’s tragic death, Vicky did not think she was going to be able to carry on with her studies, but thanks to the support of her family and the knowledge that her mum would not have wanted her to give up, she dug in and completed the course, and passed with flying colours.
“I can’t begin to explain what it was like in those weeks after my mum’s death,” said Vicky, who lives in Sydenham Road, Hartlepool, with her dad, Tommy, 55.
“The last thing I wanted to do was go back to university, but the tutors and all of my family were fantastic - they helped me through.
“The workload actually became my way out and I was working every day from nine in the morning until nine at night to get through my projects.”
The hard work paid off for Vicky, who completed the course with a first class honours and she was ecstatic to be named the winner of the annual Joe Cole award.
The prize is given out in memory of the former head of foundation art studies at the college and the winner is chosen from hundreds of entries which are on display.
“I knew my mum would be so proud when I received that award,” said Vicky.
“My mum was such a lovely person, she would do anything for anyone and I miss her so much.
“Those final weeks were absolutely awful.
“At times all she could do was wiggle her toes, for her to go from being so fit and healthy to being totally lifeless was awful.
“But I know she will be looking down now and she will be proud.
“She always supported my studies and did absolutely everything she could to give me the best chance of succeeding.”