The stories being told at the graduation ceremony at Great Yarmouth’s Nicholas Minster Church yesterday were not your average tales of student life.

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Graduates of University Campus Suffolk at Yarmouth College made a point of not only celebrating their own success but acknowledging the place that caters so well for students who choose not to pursue the typical university experience.

More than 100 donned their mortar boards and robes, among them mature students, those who suffered illness, those with children or who simply did not get on elsewhere.

Sophie Teasdale, 21, of Gorleston, hated school, leaving with few GCSEs - yet graduated yesterday with distinctions on her foundation degree in fashion and textiles and is now going to Plymouth University for her third year to complete a BA (hons).

Miss Teasdale said: “The college really helped me find my passion.

“Seeing my parents’ faces made me very proud today. I did not enjoy normal school and never thought I would be doing this.”

The ceremony saw nature writer and The Times newspaper sports writer Simon Barnes - who has supported conservation work in Norfolk with his writing - presented with an honorary doctorate.

Mr Barnes have a speech, saying “don’t be a grown up, it’s a waste of time. This is only the beginning, you can’t stay forever young, but you can stay forever learning.”

The ceremony had a touch of the traditional about it - as a procession was lead around the market square at the beginning - and of flamboyance, as former performing arts student Rebecca Bentley sang Bring on Tomorrow from the musical fame.

Head of higher education at the college Paddy Shaw said: “Some of the courses we run are written by us, to specifically serve this area.”

Penny Wycherley, college principal, added: “This sort of public event should change aspirations in Yarmouth, inspire people to see they can do it too. This was another successful year for the college, with some wonderful stories. We have a broad spectrum of students here.”

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