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Posted: 09/03/17

Determined Katie honoured with Courage Award

West Nottinghamshire College student Katie Birch has been honoured at an annual celebration of inspirational, brave young people in Mansfield.

  • Katie receives her award from Mayor Kate Allsop (second left) and Rotary club president Cate Hunt (right), watched by proud tutor Louise Bird (first left).
  • Katie (back, third left) pictured with other recipients, dignitaries and sponsors at the annual Courage Awards ceremony.

The hairdressing student joined 12 other young people from schools, colleges and education-providers across the district in being commended at the 26th Courage Awards, organised by the Rotary Club of Mansfield.
More than 100 guests including dignitaries, Rotarians, sponsors, proud family members and carers heard moving tributes from tutors and teachers before seeing nominees presented with engraved trophies and certificates at a lunchtime ceremony at Mansfield’s Civic Centre earlier this week (Tuesday 7 March 2017).
Guests included Mansfield Mayor Kate Allsop, Miss Mansfield Amy Bielby, Miss Mansfield Outstanding Teen Lucy Edwards, and Mansfield and Ashfield 2020 chairman Russell Jones.

Katie, 17, was nominated by curriculum manager for hair, beauty and spa, Sarah Morley, for showing “great motivation, inner strength and determination to turn her life around” after overcoming mental health issues.
The teenager was admitted to a mental health facility on her 14th birthday after becoming unwell. Upon leaving hospital after two-and-a-half years, Katie had a difficult time and was taken into foster care at the age of 16. After a period of being home-schooled, she decided to apply for a hairdressing course at the college to achieve her ambition of becoming a hairdresser.
Katie successfully enrolled on the Level 1 Diploma in Hairdressing and was due to begin her studies last September but she encountered some personal difficulties, which unfortunately meant she did not start college until October.
Katie was completely new to a college environment, behind on the actual course and struggled to get used to being around a large number of people. Although initially quite shy and nervous, Katie’s confidence has really grown and her social skills are now outstanding. She said: “I now have the most friends I’ve ever had in my life”.
Other skills she has developed are basic hairdressing, verbal and non-verbal communication, and the confidence and maturity to let people know when she doesn’t feel well and needs support.
Katie plans to progress onto the level 2 course next year and become a mobile hairdresser when she leaves college.
Introducing Katie to the audience, hairdressing tutor Louise Bird told guests: “Katie has 100% attendance and is punctual to all her sessions. She has a fantastic, positive and optimistic attitude, which has been noticed not only by myself as her tutor, but other teaching staff and support staff, as well as her peers in class.

“Recently, Katie has performed her work experience in college, working behind-the-scenes with the hair and beauty support team to build her confidence and knowledge of all aspects of hairdressing. The team has praised her initiative, seeing her perform many tasks without prompting, and showing willingness beyond expectation.

“At the beginning of her college journey, Katie was provided with high-level support in and out of the classroom, due to her past. While Katie still has support in some of her sessions, she is not reliant on this at all.

“Katie is currently at 94% progress on her course, which is the highest in her class, and she is on her way to achieving the level 1 qualification and progress on to a level 2 hairdressing course.

“Katie’s overall confidence has grown and her social skills are now outstanding.”

Rotary Club president Cate Hunt, who worked at the college for many years before retiring in 2016, said: “It’s been extremely moving. All the recipients are deserving of an honour for the way they have shown courage over adversity.

“These young people have overcome all sorts of personal difficulties to achieve, and the thing that comes across is that they can still smile. That’s a lesson we can all learn from.”

Mansfield Mayor Kate Allsop said: “The stories we have heard have been absolutely incredible. Listening to how these young people have fought adversity, fears and many serious problem, to continue their lives as well-rounded citizens of Mansfield is absolutely fantastic.”

Award-winner Katie said: “I felt super-proud to be nominated and go up and collect my award – it made me realise how far I’ve come. I’ll look back on this with lots of happy memories.”