SELF improvement and beating the odds were given top marks last week at the Borders Adult Learners Awards.

Now in its 18th year, the ceremony celebrates achievements of Borderers who have enhanced their knowledge and job prospects through adult education.

A total of 18 learners who have excelled over the past 12 months were shortlisted for the eight categories.

And claiming the trophy for overall winner was 24-year-old Rachel Treeby from Galashiels.

Rachel, who hopes to one day become a nurse, had struggled through school and left with no qualifications.

On returning to the Borders she became a homecare worker and gained an SVQ level 2 Award at Borders College.

Although Rachel describes herself as shy, she helped her peers get into the Christmas spirit by dressing up as an elf.

Rachel told us: “I feel more confident contributing in class and in all discussions.

"I also feel my experiences have helped me to have an insight into the caring profession and helped me to empathise with others.

"I have goals that are now achievable and hope to progress on to a nursing course after the summer.

"I have wanted to become a nurse for many years and now feel that this is achievable.”

Rachel's was one of many success stories which were revealed during the awards at Earlston High School.

When 23-year-old Scott Weir started at Borders College three years ago to study Business and Administration he found it difficult to interact with fellow students and lecturers.

But through hard work and determination Scott, who is from Peebles, achieved his HNC Administration and Information Technology, working harder than any other student in his class.

Scott was named as the Young Learner of the Year at last week's awards. He said: "It has enhanced my increasing ability to socialise with other people and provide them with some support when college work has been difficult.

"It has made me become more of a leader.”

The Accredited Learning award also went to Peebles.

Chris Forsyth approached Scottish Borders Council's Community Learning and Development team for help with reading and writing eight years ago.

The 43-year-old had been diagnosed with dyslexia and regulations within his employment meant he was required to achieve an SVQ level 2 qualification to remain in his care job

Chris was awarded seven hours of adult literacy tuition each week.

After four years of classes he was able to sit an SVQ course in administration, which he completed last February.

Chris, who is now a member of Peebles Community Council, said: "I used to be so quiet… I can speak up for myself now.

"I have attended and talked to other learners at learning conferences in the Borders.

"I have spoken out in front of a lot of people about what I have done.”

Lauder's Megan Bisland was named as Learner in the Work Place winner.

The 24-year-old works as a qualified shampooist and assistant at Aquarius Hair Design in Earlston.

But her path to permanent employment was not easy.

Megan, who has Down's Syndrome, began as a Saturday salon helper when she was 13.

In her 6th year at Earlston High School, and during her time on the Access course at Borders College, she attended at the salon one day each week on a work placement.

Finally in 2016 Megan gained her SVQ 1 certificate in hairdressing.

Along the way Megan transformed current thinking about Down’s Syndrome. She loves her job, plans to keep working, and hopes do more courses in the future.

Coldstream's Jackie Gray collected the Mature Learner award.

The 51-year-old left school without any qualifications and, after being made redundant, approached the Community Learning and Development service for help.

Jackie went on to develop her IT skills and achieved an SQA level 2.

She turned her attention to numeracy, putting in hours of study in a group and at home, to also achieve a further SQA level 2 in November 2016. Jackie said: "I just want to learn and get my qualifications.

"I was not offered the chance to do qualifications at school.”

Martin Green from Galashiels was honoured in the Learning through Volunteering category.

After going through a period in life when he was struggling to get out and engage with others, he benefitted from peer support at New Horizons Borders.

Martin was encouraged to attend learning through Borders Care Learning Network and completed many courses which have given him skills and insights which he has used to good effect.

He is now the volunteer treasurer with New Horizons and also volunteers with Borders Care Voice.

Martin is currently undertaking a Counselling course at Borders College.

The Learning in the Community award went to Kelso's Lynn Hardie.

The 40-year-old had limited education, through no fault of her own, and has faced many barriers in her life.

Lynn's dream was to “get a qualification” so her nominator, Margaret Welsh, supported her to attend adult literacy learning.

A screening test showed that Lynn could read text on yellow paper more easily.

She has now achieved two SCQF level 3 awards, is taking an active role with her neighbours and is hoping to start volunteering.

Lynn said: "This experience has made me a different person, my confidence and self esteem has flourished.

"I now know I am not stupid. I have developed a passion for learning, reading and writing.”

The Learning in a Group award went to Peebles IT drop-in session Open Doors.

Learners of all ages improve their IT skills and the weekly sessions is followed by a soup lunch prepared by young volunteers from Tweeddale Youth Action.

A total of 35 adult learners and nine young volunteers have been involved at Open Doors since it was started in 2014.

Older learners have learned how to use technology to communicate with friends and family locally and abroad.

The young volunteers have increased their communication and cooking skills, with two gaining employment in the service industry.

Donna Manson, service director children and young people at Scottish Borders Council, presented the awards.

She told us: “Many congratulations to everyone involved in this year’s awards.

"As always, the quality of nominations was outstanding with every individual and group nominated clearly having shown considerable courage and determination to overcome their own unique and personal barriers to learning.

"They are to be commended for their determination and I wish them well with whatever they go on to do as a result of their achievements.

“I would also like to acknowledge the ongoing commitment, enthusiasm and hard work of the tutors who have each made a significant contribution to not only the learning that has been achieved, but also the personal development that will have taken place as part of each adult’s individual journey to success.

“Overall it was a very special occasion and everyone who took part should be very proud of their contribution.”

The awards are organised by the local authority's Community Learning and Development team, Volunteer Centre Borders, Borders College, Scottish Borders Housing Association and Skills Development Scotland.