Amelia, Libby and Ruby head to the US to compete in global cheerleading championships

Coleg y Cymoedd learners Ruby Holifield (16), Amelia James (17), and Libby Andrews (18) are set to represent Wales at two major cheerleading contests in Orlando at the end of April.

The girls will be playing for their country at the International Cheer Union (ICU) Junior World Cheerleading Championships on 24th to 26th April before competing at club level at the International All Star Federation (IASF) competition on 27th to 29th April.

One of the biggest events in the cheerleading calendar, the ICU tournament sees national teams of 15–18-year-olds from over 25 countries compete against each other for the coveted title of global champions. Over 40 young women competed in trial outs for a position on the Wales team with just 20 selected to represent their country.

For the IASF competition, Ruby, Amelia and Libby will compete with their club, RSD Legends, and will take on 24 teams from Canada, Australia and England.

Libby, from Pontypridd, is no stranger to cheer, having been part of the RSD team for 10 years and having previously taken part in the ICU championships in 2022 where Wales came first.

As someone who has been involved in the sport for a decade, Libby is part of the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) at Coleg y Cymoedd – a programme funded by TASS and supported in Wales by Sport Wales and national governing bodies designed to help athletes aged 16-plus find a happy medium between their education and sporting development.

As part of the scheme, Coleg y Cymoedd, which is the only college in Wales to have the TASS accreditation, offers various initiatives and extra support to athletes studying at its campuses including flexibility around deadlines, exams, and lessons to ensure they do not clash with sporting activities.

Libby said: “I initially got into cheer after following in the footsteps of my sister who first gave it a go. It looked like so much fun and from the moment I first tried it, I loved it. I haven’t looked back since. I have previously taken part in the world championships with team Wales, which was an incredible experience, but that hasn’t made me any less nervous for this year’s competition.

“We’ve been working hard to be at the top of our game as a team and I cannot wait to take part again. I’m also excited for my other team mates to be involved, especially those experiencing it for the first time as it’s an incredible opportunity and something they will remember forever.

“Keeping up with my studies while I’ve been training and preparing for the competitions hasn’t been easy, but college has been really supportive. I’m lucky to part of the TASS programme at college which really has made a difference by helping to ensure exams and work don’t clash with the competition or training.”

Also part of the TASS scheme is Amelia, from Pontypridd. Amelia, who is studying a mix of Sport and Psychology A Levels at college, has been cheerleading for six years following five years of gymnastics.

Amelia said: “I really love cheerleading. I was initially a gymnast but saw some people cheerleading at my gym and wanted to try something new and challenging. I’ve taken part in a lot of competitions over the years. My biggest accomplishment was when I went to compete for team Wales in 2022 and became a world champion – that was an incredible feeling and something I dream of repeating again.

“The two competitions we are going to take part in are going to be tough as we’ll be competing against top teams from all over the world – the best of the best – but it’s amazing to be considered among them. Obviously winning would be amazing but our aim as a team is to get through to the final 10.

“I’m currently in the middle of studying for my A Levels and balancing this with cheer can be hard at times with there being so much training, but I try to set aside time for revision to make sure I’m keeping up with my studies while also doing everything I need to do for cheer.

“My tutors have also been great at helping me, making sure I have all the revision material I need and ensuring any deadlines that are up when I’m in Florida are completed and sorted before I go out. It’s meant I can give cheer my full attention for the tournaments.”

For Ruby, taking part in the world championships is a brand-new experience. A former gymnast of nine years, Caerphilly-born Ruby saw cheer as the next step for her sporting career after wanting to be involved in a more team-orientated sport, leading to her joining RSD three years ago.

Currently studying a Level 3 Art and Design course at college, Ruby, who has a love for painting, drawing and designing things, is hoping to pursue a job in the creative industry but plans to continue cheerleading while she follows her career ambitions.

She said: “I have been doing cheer for three years now and this will be my first time at the worlds. I am extremely nervous about the upcoming competition, but I know it’s going to be a once in a lifetime experience.

“The Wales team is formed each year specifically for the competition so I’m most looking forward to being all together in Florida and enjoying our last time as a team together. Hopefully it will just be start of my experience competing in the world championships.”

Coleg y Cymoedd wish Amelia, Libby and Ruby all the best in Florida!

Coleg y Cymoedd is the only TASS-accredited FE institution in Wales. Find out more, here: http://www.cymoedd.ac.uk/tass-talented-athlete-scholarship-scheme/

Coleg y Cymoedd learners create first ever rhino wheelchair costume for London Marathon

Over 150 Coleg y Cymoedd learners have teamed up with conservation charity, Save The Rhino International, to create the first ever bespoke rhino wheelchair costume that will charge through the London Marathon this April to raise awareness of rhino conservation across the world, improve their skills in a unique practical project, and promote accessibility in endurance events.

For the last eight months, learners from Creative Industries, Engineering and Vocational Access have been busy creating a distinctive wheelchair rhino adapted costume that will be worn by seasoned Welsh Wheelchair Rugby League player, Martin Turner, on the famous 26.2-mile route this month.

One of the biggest cross-department projects the college has ever undertaken, the experience has given learners a unique opportunity to support an important cause while putting their practical skills to the test alongside one of the industry’s leading professionals, famous puppeteer and Save the Rhino International patron, William Todd-Jones, who first run the marathon wearing a rhino costume he had designed 30 years ago.

Learners have worked closely with Todd, Martin, and Martin’s WRL teammates over the course of several workshops to construct a new costume and ensure it meets the challenges of the marathon course, while prioritising safety and accessibility for him.

In addition, they have restored nine more costumes to their former glory, including the one that Todd first wore thirty years ago. These costumes have been dismantled and mended so that other runners can wear them in marathons and extreme sports events around the globe and continue the tradition.

One learner taking part in the rhino restoration project is Ray Munro, who is currently studying Entry Level 3 Creative Arts and Media at the college.

They said: “During the time working on the project, we learnt not only about costume construction but also about rhino conservation and the work of Save the Rhino International and it felt good to know I was contributing even in a small part to their effort. The opportunity to be a part of this project is definitely something I will cherish always, and I look forward to seeing the rhinos in the London marathon.”

Rosa Watts, a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design learner added: “I thoroughly enjoyed working with Todd and the rest of the team to help complete the rhinos in time for the London marathon. The process really developed my team working skills and I gained valuable insights into how the industry works.”

Commenting on the opportunity for Coleg y Cymoedd Vocational Access learners to be involved with the project, Construction tutor, Donna Jones, called the project “a heartening collaboration” where a “remarkable synergy has emerged, blending conservation with skill-building in an inspiring fashion”.

She continued: “our learners honed an array of transferrable skills including problem solving and communication. Through their involvement, they’ve not only gained practical experience but also a deeper understanding of environmental conservation and the importance of community engagement.”

Alistair Aston, course leader and creative industries co-ordinator at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “It has been an honour to join forces with Save the Rhino International, bringing new life to their iconic costumes and we’re thrilled to have played a part in spreading Save the Rhino International’s message, inspiring action for conservation and inclusivity.

“Many of the learners who have taken part in the construction of the new rhino costume, alongside the re-modelling of the old are entry level access learners, who have historically had very little opportunity to take part in such a unique and worthwhile project. The opportunities presented by the Rhino project extend far beyond skill acquisition; it’s been a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves, to contribute meaningfully to the preservation of wildlife. Through their involvement, they’ve not only gained practical experience but also a deeper understanding of environmental conservation and the importance of community engagement.”

Save the Rhino International was formally established as a UK charity in 1994, with the vision for all five rhino species to thrive in the wild. The money raised during the marathon will go towards the conservation of endangered rhinos in Africa and Asia. The project has evolved in close collaboration with Wild Connect, a company that reconnects local schools with the wild, South Wales Valleys based Orangebox, the international smart-working furniture company, Mark3D industrial 3D printers, and Motivation, an international disability inclusion charity and social enterprise that supplied the wheelchair for the costume.

Jo Shaw, CEO of Save the Rhino International, added: “Since 1992, the London Marathon has been a crucial event for Save the Rhino, raising more than £2 million and, crucially, highlighting the importance of rhino conservation to new audiences on a world stage. Through events like this and with the help of institutions like Coleg y Cymoedd, we can continue to achieve significant milestones in rhino conservation and bring more people together to make a positive difference for our world.”

Walk-In Wardrobe: Coleg y Cymoedd’s innovative solution to support learners in need of smart outfits

A new initiative at Coleg y Cymoedd is helping learners to dress for success by providing them with quality clothing options for free.

Run by Vocational Access staff and learners, the Walk-In Wardrobe aims to support those who need smart outfits for special occasions, such as weddings or interviews, or simply need a clothing refresh.

The project was launched in response to the challenges faced by some learners who may not have access to suitable clothing due to the current Cost of Living Crisis, personal circumstances, or lack of confidence.

The scheme offers a range of casual and professional clothes for both young men and women, as well as accessories and shoes.

All learners from across the college’s four campuses can take advantage of the offering, which is centrally located at Ystrad Mynach campus most lunch times and has a private changing room for learners to try on the clothes before taking them home.

Clothes have been donated by staff, learners, and members of the community, and are freshly laundered and steamed within the college.

The Vocational Access staff and learners also sort, display, and manage the stock, as well as provide friendly advice and assistance to visitors. For those who prefer a more discreet service, the Walk-In Wardrobe also offers an option for private visits, and appointments can be made by contacting those involved.

The initiative has been praised by learners and staff alike, who have expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to access quality clothing without any cost or stigma.

The Walk-In Wardrobe also promotes the values of sustainability, recycling, and community spirit, as well as boosting the self-esteem and confidence of the learners who benefit from it.

One of the project leads for Walk-In Wardrobe, Kerry Hartnell, spoke of the initiative: “Our college values are rooted in supporting our learners and our local community, especially in the face of the Cost-of-Living Crisis that has hit many families hard. That’s why we are proud to offer the Walk-In Wardrobe, a free service that provides clothing for learners who need it.

“It was important for us that the Wardrobe was centrally located at our Ystrad Mynach campus and open at different times throughout the week, so that all our learners had an opportunity to visit.

“We couldn’t run this service without the help of our external partners, who generously supply us with clothing for our learners. We also welcome donations from anyone who has gently used clothes that are in good condition and do not need mending.

“You can drop off your donations at any of our campuses or get in touch with the Vocational Access staff for more information. Thank you for your support and kindness.”

The Walk-In Wardobe Wardrobe is one of the many ways that Coleg y Cymoedd supports its learners to achieve their academic and personal goals and prepares them for the world of work and further education.

The college offers a wide range of courses, from A Levels and vocational qualifications to apprenticeships and higher education, across four campuses in Aberdare, Nantgarw, Rhondda, and Ystrad Mynach.

For more on the Walk-In Wardrobe, and to donate, contact the project leads, Kerry Hartnell and Emily Gilson on: Kerry.Hartnell@cymoedd.ac.uk or Emily.Gilson@cymoedd.ac.uk. Alternatively, please call: 01443 810098 extension 4098.

Aberdare

Wellington Street
Aberdare
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF44 8EN

Nantgarw

Heol y Coleg
Parc Nantgarw
Cardiff
CF15 7QY

Rhondda

Llwynypia
Tonypandy
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF40 2TQ

Ystrad Mynach

Twyn Road
Ystrad Mynach
Hengoed
CF82 7XR

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