Proud university graduate overcomes family tragedy to win award

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A university student from Ripley has graduated with a special award in recognition of a project she completed in response to family tragedy.

Sarina Johal, 21, graduated from Lincoln’s Bishop Grosseteste University in July with a degree in Education Studies and English.

But the gradation ceremony held a surprise for Sarina and her proud family when she was announced as the winner of the School of Social Sciences Prize for Understanding of Global and International Issues.

The award was given for a project Sarina undertook after the death of her cousin, Canadian politician Manmeet Bhullar in November 2015.

University tutor Barbara Murphy said: “Sarina produced a short, exceptionally moving and powerful film as a part of the assessment of the module on international dimensions.”

The project explored the difficulties faced by the minority Sikh community in conflict zones, and the work Manmeet had done to support the repatriation of large numbers of persecuted Sikh families to Canada.

Tipped as a rising political star, Manmeet was killed in a road accident as he tried to help a stranded motorist.

Barbara added: “The film demonstrated the depth of Sarina’s knowledge and understanding of the impact of conflict. It is a fitting tribute to a man who gave hope to a persecuted community.”

As well as the death of her cousin, in Sarina’s final year her father suffered poor health and her grandma was diagnosed with dementia.

Sarina said: “I spent a lot of time at home supporting my family, but this motivated me to carry on and do my best.

“I would not have got through university without the support of my family.”

Sarina will soon start work as a primary teaching assistant, but plans to return to university to qualify as a teacher.