Kent Student Awards nominations open

Allie Burnett
Photo of April-Louise Pennant
April-Louise Pennant by Jason Dodd

As nominations open for Kent Student Awards 2016, we take a look at last year's Student of the Year - Sociology graduate April-Louise Pennant.

The Awards

From 11 January until 6 March 2016 students, staff and members of the public can nominate an inspirational student to win a Kent Student Award for their extracurricular activity.

The Kent Student Awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding contribution students make to the Kent student experience. To find out what judges are looking for, read about last year’s ‘Student of the Year’ below.

Student of the Year 2015

Sociology graduate April-Louise Pennant spent her time at the University of Kent and a year studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong encouraging and educating others about the diversity within the Black community.

Hong Kong experience

It's time for Africa event

April-Louise organised ‘It’s Time for Africa’ event while studying in Hong Kong

While in Hong Kong, April-Louise envisioned and co-founded a new cultural student organisation called the Black International Community (BIC), which aimed to celebrate, educate and provide a forum for students from an African/Caribbean/Black heritage inclusive of the local students.

In order to fulfil its purpose to promote and share the cultures from within the Black community, the society ran regular events, including presentations about what it means to be Black and cultural trips to taste and understand African and Caribbean food. The society is still running in Hong Kong today.

As a result of setting up the BIC, April-Louise was also given a lead role in organising a week-long, University-wide event in Hong Kong to celebrate African culture. The ‘It’s Time for Africa’ event, which engaged the entire student community at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, celebrated the cultural identities in Africa and helped to raise awareness of the issues Black people face in Hong Kong. The event included an opening ceremony with a fashion show showcasing traditional African clothes, African food tasting as well as sharing sessions throughout the week. It was also attended by generals from the African consulate and local African community groups in Hong Kong.

Culture at Canterbury

April-Louise’s passion for educating her peers on cultural diversity can be evidenced throughout her studies at the University of Kent. In her second year, as the secretary of the African and Caribbean Society (ACS), she led and organised the introduction of a Caribbean food stall on campus, negotiating special student prices, which traded weekly.

In her final year, after returning from her study year abroad in Hong Kong, she led the planning and participated in a silent protest, ‘Kent Can’t Breathe’, which was a demonstration of solidarity as part of an international show of anger at police brutality against Black people both in the UK and US. The protest, sparked by the death of Eric Garner in the US was attended by over 40 people. While doing this, in her final year, she was able to balance a part-time job within the Representation and Democracy section of the Kent Union offices, complete over 200 hours of volunteering and maintain good grades.

Double nomination

April-Louise Pennant, winner of the Student of the Year Award

April-Louise at the 2015 Kent Student Awards gala dinner

April-Louise’s commitment towards educating other students on cultural diversity meant she was nominated in two categories at the Kent Student Awards in recognition of her work at her university in Hong Kong and for ‘Kent Can’t Breathe’. She was honoured by the University in the Outstanding International/Multicultural Initiative of the Year category, came in second place in the Outstanding Contribution to Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity category, and was named ‘Student of the Year’ at the Kent Student Awards 2015. The annual awards recognise the achievements of Kent students outside of their academic studies.

April-Louise graduated from the University of Kent in July 2015 with first class honours.

Looking forward

Photo of April-Louise Pennant

April-Louise at graduation

Since graduating, she has been awarded a prestigious postgraduate Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) scholarship at the University of Birmingham. April-Louise’s research looks at the educational experience of specific groups and she hopes to become a lecturer.