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A young Banbridge woman has become the first Ulster University EDGE Excel Student of the Year.

Law and Criminology graduate Rebekah Deacon won the coveted award, sponsored by Citi, which recognises exceptional commitment to personal and professional development.

Rebekah was chosen as the overall prize winner for her passion, enthusiasm and strong work ethic in and out of the lecture theatre. She has determination too, re-sitting her exams in order to attend Ulster University.

The Ulster University EDGE Award focuses on the development of personal and professional skills for students, equipping them to fulfil their career ambitions as confident, skilled graduates that can help employers shape the future of their business or profession.

To win the award Rebekah first had to gain an Excel Award. She was one of 53 Ulster University students to achieve this, with all of them passing a written application before being invited to an employer-led interview panel.

Competition was fierce and the standards of the applicants extremely high with the panel recommending Rebekah as student of the year.

Activities which helped Rebekah stand out included training to be a peer mentor to facilitate group teaching, acting as class representative, taking a Street Law Programme, which provides law students with an opportunity to disseminate complex legal issues to young offenders in order to facilitate and encourage positive engagement with the law among young offenders, and being a Student Partner, in which she worked in partnership with staff to research the learning experience on their course, and deliver activities which will improve student retention and success within their discipline.

Rebekah receives certificates for 'EDGE Excel Award Student of the Year' and an EDGE Excel certificate plus £200 in Amazon vouchers, sponsored by Citi.

Delighted to win the award, she believes it will enhance her future employment prospects.

"I signed up for the EDGE Award in my first year as I realised some of the activities I was participating in were counted towards it anyway, then by second year I realised I had four activities and with another year left, I decided to push for the Excel Award," said Rebekah.

"I believe completing this Award will help me in my future career because I can prove to employers I have skills that they want, for example I took part in the student retention programme and class rep, which involved working independently and as part of a team and using problem solving skills. As well as this I took PASS which shows initiative and leadership skills.

"The 'Graduation: What Next?' module has definitely helped me as I was able to submit my CV and get constructive feedback. Modules such as Street Law - where we planned a lesson based on law and taught offenders at Woodlands - are also a good conversation starter with employers!

"I hope that achieving this award will make me stand out to employers. I think I won because it shows I am a well-rounded person who likes to participate, determined and I go above the minimum expected."

Having finished her degree in Law and Criminology, graduating with a 2:1, Rebecca has applied for a LLM Legal Clinical Skills course but is also on the look out for a job.

She added: "I have always been interested in Law and originally wanted to go onto the Institute, but having completed my degree I want to get more experience first and hope to pursue this at a later point in life. Law and Criminology go hand in hand as the subjects sometimes overlap so it seemed like a good choice.

"I didn't have any placements as part of my course but I did volunteer last summer as an English Teaching Assistant in Thailand and received a TEFL certificate from my time there. This was an eye-opening experience as I learned about another culture and gave me a bit of a travelling bug!

"The main obstacle I think I faced would be how I didn't get the required grades in order to get into Law the first time, so with the support of family, friends and my secondary school I re-sat my upper sixth year and then thankfully got the grades I needed."