First year BA (Hons) Illustration student, Kimberley Burrows, has won the Life Changing Partnership Award at national Guide Dogs Annual Awards.
The award was presented by Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers, to Kimberley at a glamorous awards ceremony at the Hurlingham Club in London and was hosted by This Morning's Dr Ranj Singh and Dr Zoe Williams.
Watch a short film about Kimberley and the transformational affect her guide dog, Tami, has had on her life - Life Changing Partnership Award.
Kimberley joined the College on the Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design), which led to her successfully gaining a place as a BA (Hons) Illustration student. She qualified with her dog Tami in late 2014, and credits Tami with enabling her to make the brave decision to move away from her home in Manchester, to study at Leeds College of Art.
We caught up with Kimberley to find out more about her nomination, and how Tami has helped her to settle into student life.
Congratulations on winning the Life Changing Partnership Guide Dog Award! What does it mean to you to win this award?
It meant so much to even be nominated, never mind winning! Words cannot describe how honoured I am. It feels like such a celebration of the exhaustive journey I've had over the past four years; finally coming to terms with my severe sight impairment and taking steps to battle my social anxiety, learning to read Braille and use accessible technology, cook and prepare food safely and use a cane for a better sense of mobility.
Along the way I rediscovered my love of illustrating and, even though the process is very difficult for me with such a small amount of sight, I find it so rewarding. Tami came into my life and catapulted the change I needed to finally be the confident and independent person I am today.
How has having Tami helped you get back into education?
I've had Tami for a little over two years now. She has been instrumental in my personal development and wellbeing, supporting me with my mobility, independence and self-esteem. As well as being my eyes she is my best friend and has changed my life in so many ways. Tami was the driving force that allowed me to look to the future, rather than concentrating on the past and all of the struggles and hardships I've faced, focusing on my education again.
My dream of getting my art degree as a teenager was robbed from me when I lost more of my sight after finishing high school. When I started college, people bullied me for being almost blind - they would throw things at me and move my things around. I had no choice but to drop out. It was a regret I lived with for ten years and something I knew I wanted to take back and fix.
I found out about Leeds College of Art from someone at a sight loss charity I volunteered for and after some research found they did a course aimed at mature students who wanted to get back into education. Perfect! I booked onto an open day and met Adam Stone, who would go on to become my tutor on the Access to HE course. Adam was so supportive of me and my portfolio and was the reassurance I needed in believing this was the right time and place to start again.
The Access to HE course was simply wonderful. Being in a creative space with other adults from all walks of life was nothing short of thrilling and I learned so many new skills and techniques as an artist. It really lay the foundations for where I am today, and I made friends for life.
How does Tami help you day to day at College?
Tami is so helpful around College in ensuring I get into the barriers safely, past the cafe without walking into crowds of students and to the lift to get to my studio on the second floor. She learns very quickly where I need to go - whether that is the lecture theatre, library or print room - and must have so many routes and visuals stored in her mind. She is an incredible girl!
My disability in a sighted college means that people can feel awkward around me and I feel very isolated at times. Having Tami means I am never truly alone and have all the friendship and love I need!
Finally, what are your ambitions for the future?
After I have gained my illustration degree, it would be my dream to become a children's book illustrator. I already have a few projects lined up which will really get things into action and I cannot wait to share my journey with everyone!
Commenting on the Guide Dogs Annual Awards 2017, Steve Vaid, Guide Dogs Acting Chief Executive, said: “It is always a highlight on the calendar when we get the chance to hear heart-warming stories and celebrate the incredible achievements of the people we support and those who help support out charity’s life-changing work. Whether it’s getting out to meet friends, fulfilling career ambitions or helping others, Guide Dogs make sure there is enough support so that no one is left out of life because of their sight loss.”