West Nottinghamshire College students Katie Bloomfield and Georgie Ancliffe have been honoured at an annual celebration of Mansfield’s most courageous young people.
They were amongst 11 inspirational youngsters from schools, colleges and education-providers to be commended at the 29th Courage Awards, staged by the Rotary Club of Mansfield.
At an emotional lunchtime ceremony at Portland College, Mansfield, on Tuesday (3 March 2020), more than 100 guests, including dignitaries, Rotarians, sponsors and proud family members heard moving tributes from teachers and support staff before seeing each nominee receive an engraved silver plaque from rotary club president John Bilzon and a framed civic citation from Mansfield Mayor Andy Abrahams.
Travel and tourism student Katie, 18, was nominated for her hard work and commitment to learning, despite missing crucial college-time due to a serious medical condition.
The teenager was an extremely conscientious student last year – studying the Level 2 Diploma in Travel and Tourism, with 100 per cent attendance and on track for a distinction grade – when she suddenly started to feel ill, with bad headaches.
Katie was admitted to hospital, where she was diagnosed with a blood clot on her brain, which left her extremely poorly. It meant she missed three months of college at the crucial end-of-year point, from March to May.
However, Katie was absolutely determined to finish the course and continuously asked for college work throughout her time in hospital and throughout her recovery. With medical advice, teaching staff put together a return-to-college programme and asked the examining board to delay Katie’s end date so she could complete her studies over the summer.
But instead, resolute Katie returned at the end of May and did not miss another day, completing the course by the end of June at the same time as her classmates. Moreover, she gained an overall distinction average and a distinction in every unit except one, where she achieved a merit.
Katie faces a long and often painful recovery process, which means she has to attend hospital for regular tests and is often extremely tired. But that did not stop her from going back to college last September to study the Level 3 Diploma in Travel and Tourism, where she is on track for top grades. If Katie ever misses a day due to her illness, she always catches up with the work without being asked.
Claire Craig, the programme area leader for travel and tourism who nominated her, said: “Katie never complains about her illness and just gets on with it, even though it has meant completely re-thinking her career path in the industry as she can no longer fly or work as cabin crew while receiving treatment.
“Her hard work and dedication ensured she was selected from hundreds of candidates to undertake a work placement at East Midlands Airport to learn more about ground roles in aviation.
“Katie has been an inspiration to her peers, showing what is achievable despite difficult circumstances, and has been a role-model in dealing with adversity.”
Georgie was jointly nominated by co-ordinator for Deaf/hearing impaired learners Vanora Heason and support coach Kirsty Betts for demonstrating courage and perseverance in the face of adversity.
She was a young teenager when she lost her mum very suddenly and, “as you can imagine for any teenage girl, this was very difficult for her to comprehend and come to terms with,” said Vanora.
Georgie subsequently went to live with her grandma and grandad, but soon settled into a routine. She joined the college in September 2017 having previously attended specialist provision. Although mainstream education was a huge step for her, Georgie made lots of friends and began to enjoy life as a student.
The 20-year-old, who is a student in the college’s foundation studies department, has a hearing loss and uses two hearing aids. She also has learning difficulties.
Tragedy struck again when Georgie unexpectedly lost her grandfather and, as her grandma’s health deteriorated, Georgie and her younger brother faced a period of great uncertainty regarding their future. During this time she had to grow up quickly, looking after not only herself but her brother and grandma too.
Despite all these setbacks and new responsibilities, Georgie’s attendance at college remained excellent and she would typically be seen with a smile on her face, and never complained about her situation.
Just before Christmas, Georgie moved into her own flat. She is now sorting out bills, cooking, cleaning and looking after herself. She takes responsibility for her own appointments and is also joining in with groups in her local area.
Initially, Georgie relied on a lot of support in class, both for her learning and her social interaction. However, she is now showing much greater independence in taking ownership of her learning and is producing some outstanding work.
Vanora added: “There have been a lot of ups and downs and Georgie has faced and conquered some real life battles that many of us will never have to contend with. However, she has exemplified compassion to others, demonstrated courage in the face of adversity and has persevered, despite fighting many internal battles.
“Georgie has never let her hearing loss get in the way of what she wants to do or the person she wants to be. Her journey so far is a real testament to her resilience and strength of character, and she is a shining example to other young people with a hearing loss or indeed any difficulty or disability. We couldn’t be more proud of the amazing young person she has become.”
In the future, Georgie would like to work in a role that involves looking after children.
Kirsty, her co-nominator, said: “She is overflowing with enthusiasm about the future – her energy is positively infectious. Georgie has chosen a course geared to preparing her for the world of work and is very keen to get a job and make a difference to people. This is typical of Georgie – her caring nature is plain and obvious to everyone she meets.”