St Albans student succeeds against the odds

Oaklands College pupil Andreas Constantinou with Kaa, a re-homed Burmese python

Oaklands College pupil Andreas Constantinou with Kaa, a re-homed Burmese python - Credit: Photo supplied

Swapping the warmer climes of Cyprus for St Albans as a youngster has helped Andreas Constantinou cope with unheavals later in life.

And that is just as well, because since leaving a mainstream secondary school where he was identified as a poor achiever likely to wind up in low-level employment at best, Andreas has beaten the odds and disproved his naysayers.

The determined 22 year old is both a student and staff member at Oaklands College, Hatfield Road, where he has discovered a gift for working with animals.

Andreas, who lived in Cyprus until he was five years old, encountered problems at secondary school, including being bullied, and was home-schooled for a year.

He told the Herts Advertiser: “I’m more of a practical learner. And I have been diagnosed with dyslexia while at college – which has clarified a lot for me.”

Andreas has won praise from Oaklands, where he has gained a myriad of qualifications – to the equivalent of A-levels – and now works as a curriculum technician at the college’s animal care department.

A college spokesman said: “It’s an incredible story as Andreas came to us from a mainstream school and our additional learning support team identified that he had a learning need.

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“With their support he has flown through. He is now also a staff member, and loved by students.”

Andreas has urged others to pursue their goals, and not be held back by bad experiences at school.

He went on: “I am now doing a course in carpentry, as I want to maintain and make new enclosures at the animal care department.

“Coming to Oaklands has definitely helped me to develop my confidence.

“I used to be terrified of spiders, but I’m fond of them now. I’m a bit of a bug guy, as insects are amazing.”

The department houses many different creatures including Kaa, a calm 20-year-old Burmese python who was re-homed at the college after his owner died.

Andreas also enjoys “training” Hugo, a bosc monitor lizard, to the point where he is immediately alert to the likelihood of receiving food upon hearing the sound of a clicker – a device normally used to train dogs.