Matthew Smith, the boy from Dagenham who had left school with just two GCSEs at grade E, was determined not to let his lack of educational qualifications hold him back from his future career.
He enrolled in a media course at Barking and Dagenham College and studied graphic design, video editing and on-set filming.
Matthew, now in his late 20s, returned to his old college campus at Rush Green to give an insight from his experiences to today’s media students.
“School just wasn’t right for me,” he told them. “But this college took a different approach.
“This is a special place to me because it wasn’t just about the grades and academics — they saw my potential and really helped me excel.
“The opportunities and support were endless and from this I’ve achieved a lot of personal goals.”
He started at Level 1, but his tutors soon realised he was a natural film-maker and moved him up to Level 3 BTec, where he regularly got merits and distinctions for his course work.
Matthew passed his BTec in 2016, then went on to Norwich University and got a Master’s degree under his belt.
But it was the media studio at Rush Green that set him on his career path.
He had returned to his old college to screen his latest project, a short-film about the life of an autistic youngster.
It underlines his passion for filming real life, which he demonstrated at the screening to encourage current students on media courses to aim for their career goal and not get consumed by academic grades.
Matthew is himself now expanding his portfolio of short films and corporate projects and said he aspires to specialise in feature-based camera work in the future.
The college runs media courses with its new state-of-the-art studio complex for film-making, graphic design, audio technology, broadcasting techniques and photography.
Courses also include digital technology for building websites, mobile apps, e-gaming and interactive programmes.