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Brave students honoured with Courage Awards

Posted: 04 March 2016

Two West Nottinghamshire College students have been honoured at an annual celebration of inspirational, brave young people in Mansfield.

Claire O’Shea and Declan Batten joined 12 other young people from schools, colleges and charities across the district in being commended at the 25th Courage Awards, staged by the Rotary Club of Mansfield.
 
More than 180 guests including dignitaries, Rotarians from several neighbouring rotary clubs, sponsors and proud family members filled a packed-out Eastwood Suite at Portland College, Mansfield, earlier this week (Tuesday 1 March) to hear moving tributes from tutors and teachers before seeing the award-winners receive engraved trophies and certificates.
 
Claire and Declan were chosen by their tutors in recognition of their hard work and commitment to their studies, despite suffering from severe visual impairments.
 
Childcare student Claire was nominated by early years tutor and co-ordinator Leslye Henstock for being “a true inspiration to her tutors, support workers and fellow students.”
 
The 17-year-old, from Worksop, has Aniridia, a rare condition which means the iris is missing or incomplete, making her particularly sensitive to light, and Nystagmus, which affects her focus and judgement of speed and distance.

In spite of this, Claire, who studies the Level 1 Diploma in Caring for Children at the college’s Derby Road campus in Mansfield, is enthusiastic about her education and aspires to a career supporting children with similar needs.

She successfully completed her work placement at a day nursery and also does much for charity, having boosted funds for Children in Need through cake sales and raised money for homeless charities by completing a 5k sponsored walk. Her ambition is to embark on a sponsored sky-dive to raise cash for guide dog charities.

Inviting Claire to collect her award, Ms Henstock told the audience: “Claire is a very determined young woman who willingly and enthusiastically completes all aspects of her academic and practical training with commitment and dedication.

“Her achievements are outstanding, despite her impaired vision. She aims for the highest grades at all times, and rarely complains.
  
“She’s constantly thinking about what she can do to help other people. Claire is a super role model for children and a wonderful young adult, as well as a fantastic student.”

A-Level learner Declan, 18, who studies maths, accounting and psychology at the Derby Road campus, was nominated by achievement coach Gemma Lane for being an “exceptional student” who achieves “astonishing results” despite being severely sight-impaired.

He has to have weekly hospital appointments and regularly undergoes a procedure to have his corneas scraped, due to a build-up of calcium.

Although Declan, of Swanwick, Alfreton, struggles to see, he is an accomplished pianist, playing to Grade 5 standard, as well as a skilled artist and origami practitioner – doing all of these by learning from memory. He plans to study maths at university before pursuing a career in encryption.

Introducing him to the audience, academic studies curriculum manager Stuart Booker said: “It’s difficult enough for any student to complete a programme of A-Level studies but even more so when you’re severely visually-impaired. But Declan rises to every challenge and has made outstanding progress.

“As someone who’s battled throughout his life, with the constant appointments at hospitals, none of that seems to stand in his way. He is such an unassuming young man and having him at college is terrific for all the students and staff. He’s such a clever student and a real inspiration.”

Presenting the awards were Mansfield Rotary Club president Phil Richmond, Mansfield Mayor Kate Allsop, leader of Mansfield Independent Forum Councillor Martin Wright, and Russell Jones, a partner at Fidler and Pepper Solicitors and chairman of the Mansfield 2020 business network.

Other VIPs included Rotary District Governor Dr Roger Summers, chief executive of Mansfield District Council Bev Smith and Miss Mansfield and Sherwood Forest Amy Beilby.

As this was the 25th anniversary of the awards, the organisers also invited previous winners over the last three decades to attend. This saw former A-Level student at West Nottinghamshire College, Sam Wilson, who won an award in 2012, join the celebrations with current recipients.

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