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Annabelle honoured with Courage Award for her “immense resilience”

Posted: 10 March 2021

A professional cookery student at West Nottinghamshire College has been honoured at an annual celebration of Mansfield’s most courageous young people who have achieved against-the-odds.

Annabelle Pye was among 11 inspirational children and young people to receive an accolade at the Rotary Club of Mansfield’s 30th annual Courage Awards earlier this month.
 
They were nominated by their school or college for “exemplifying moral and spiritual courage in the face of personal adversity and difficulty.”
 
Guests at the award ceremony – which was held virtually this year, via Zoom, due to the coronavirus pandemic – heard that Annabelle had shown “immense resilience” to overcome deafness and an operation to be fitted with cochlear implants to thrive in her studies.
 
The 18-year-old, of Forest Town, was nominated by her chef tutor, Mark Jones, for her steadfast refusal to let her hearing impairment become a barrier to learning.

Through Annabelle’s determination and increased confidence, her support workers at the college have now taken more of a reduced role in lessons, allowing her to be more independent and ‘employment-ready’.

During her first year at the college, studying the Level 2 Technical Certificate in Professional Cookery, Annabelle relied on the assistance of a communication support worker for the deaf in both her theory and practical sessions, and also a Roger Pen microphone and receivers. The support worker took notes of the tutor’s input for Annabelle to refer to for homework and assignment tasks and would reiterate information provided within the noisy kitchen environment of the college’s restaurant, Refined.

Annabelle also suffered from intermittent ear infections that affected her hearing, wearing of her aids and her college attendance, but she always kept in touch and caught up with tasks and coursework.

Though clearly affected by the move from working in college to remote learning during the first coronavirus lockdown, Annabelle continued submitting course work and went on to achieve a Merit grade in her level 2 course.

She hit the ground running upon returning to college in September 2020 to study the NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Professional Cookery. With a new-found confidence and independent initiative, she broached with her support worker Anita Quibell the subject of face masks hindering communication within the kitchen environment. This resulted in the use of see-through visors by all of her peers, allowing Annabelle to communicate independently without the need of a support worker’s intervention.

Annabelle also requested extra sessions to try to complete as many assessments as possible before her planned cochlear implant operation in October — a life-changing moment. During a brief period of recuperation, she kept in contact with her group via Microsoft Teams and returned to college within weeks of the procedure, and was again enthusiastic to cook and to learn new skills.

It was a new way of hearing for Annabelle and there have been difficulties and pleasant surprises along the way. She has continued to be helped by communication support workers and had weekly one-to-one sessions to work through course-specific vocabulary, with a focus on the sounds Annabelle could now hear with her cochlear implants; some of which were easier to recognise than others.

Now, thanks to Annabelle’s determination, her support workers have been able to take a reduced role in lessons – and the hard-working teenager is set to successfully complete her level 3 professional cookery qualification.

Tutor Mark said: “Annabelle always comes to college with a smile on her face, is always committed and always shows passion towards her skills.

“Annabelle has never let her hearing impairment become a barrier to learning. Her positive attitude has been recognised by her peers, who admire the hard work and immense resilience she has shown. Annabelle remains dedicated to her studies and is on track to successfully complete her course.

“I’d also like to pay tribute to the communication support workers at the college, especially Anita Quibell, who has been there every step of the way for Annabelle’s development.”

 The emotional awards ceremony, on Tuesday 2 March, was attended by more than 100 guests including dignitaries, Rotarians, sponsors, proud family members, plus teachers and support staff, who heard moving tributes about the nominees. There is no overall winner – each recipient enjoys equal statues and receives their own individual award.
 
The online event featured a surprise pre-recorded message from television couple Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford – presenters of ITV’s This Morning – who led the praise, saying:  “Today is the 30th year that Mansfield Rotary Club has organised its Courage Awards and we are delighted to pay our tribute to the young people who have been nominated and who are being honoured today.

“You are an inspiration to all of us in these very difficult times and, despite the Covid pandemic, we are sure that the parents and carers of the nominees are delighted that these awards are going ahead, albeit in a virtual format. So well done – and congratulations to everyone involved.”

Speaking afterwards, Annabelle, who loves every aspect of cookery, especially baking, said: “I was so shocked when Mark told me he had nominated me for the Courage Award.

“I’ve never let my deafness hold me back in what I do. When I made the decision to have bilateral cochlear implants, my operation was scheduled to happen last June, giving me time to recover and learn new sounds before starting my level 3 professional cookery course – but due to the global pandemic, my operation was postponed until it was safe.

“I had three weeks to prepare for my operation, which took place in October last year, and was determined not to get behind in my learning, so I spoke with Mark to get in front with my assignments, which I did.

“My recovery was slower than I expected but everyone at West Notts helped me and offered additional support.

“I'm really happy that I'm able to access sounds better than I did with hearing aids already.

“I want to thank Mark, Mandy, Heather, Mo and Neil in the catering team and Anita, Vanora and Cheryl in the learning support team, not to mention all my friends.”

Annabelle’s delighted mum, Susan, said: “I’ve always know Annabelle was destined for great things. When her deafness was diagnosed at three-years-old, I was determined that she would not only have the same opportunities as a hearing person but it would never be an excuse of not thriving.

“I can't be any more proud than I am right now but it makes me beam to know that all at West Notts recognise her greatness too! 

“All the adults that support Annabelle are genuinely the greatest people we've ever met. I can't thank them all enough.

“Annabelle being given the Courage Award has made our day, month and year. We'll done Annabelle!”

Each young person honoured at the Courage Awards received a civic citation from the Mayor of Mansfield, Andy Abrahams, and a plaque from the president-elect of the Rotary Club, Karen Johnson.
 
Karen said: “We hope everyone enjoyed the event, despite the changed circumstances, and that they were impressed with these young people and were moved by their stories. We doubt there was a dry eye on screen.

“It is a privilege for Mansfield Rotary Club to present the Courage Awards, which reflect our own motto of Service Above Self.”

Education Mutual was the event’s main sponsor. Others sponsors were Tyler Bros (Sutton-in-Ashfield) Ltd, HW Martin Waste Ltd, Asmech Systems Ltd, Portland College, Hall-Fast Industrial Supplies, Mansfield Building Society, Fidler & Pepper, Hopkins Solicitors, Mansfield Garage Doors, The Rose Bower, Bee Noticed, Alison and Phil Constantine, and Ravenshead Consultancy.

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