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The Corporation

Posted: 08/03/18

Courageous Connor honoured with glittering award

West Nottinghamshire College student Connor Simpson has been honoured at an annual celebration of Mansfield’s bravest young people.

  • Connor receives his award from Nicky Tomlinson-Murphy (second right) and Mansfield Mayor Kate Allsop (right), joined by Angela Taylor.
  • Connor (back row, third from right) pictured with other recipients, joined by Nicky Tomlinson-Murphy, event sponsor Les Marshall, and Mansfield Mayor Kate Allsop.
  • Back at college, Connor shows off his award to staff from the catering and hospitality team (from left) Mandy Prince, Helen Wilcockson, Lee Coupe, Jo Wilson and Neil Wilson, who have helped him on his journey.

The catering and hospitality student joined 12 other inspirational children and young people from schools, colleges and education-providers across the district in being commended at the 27th Courage Awards, staged by the Rotary Club of Mansfield.
More than 100 guests including dignitaries, Rotarians, sponsors, proud family members and carers heard moving tributes from teachers and tutors before seeing nominees presented with engraved trophies and certificates at a lunchtime ceremony at Portland College, Mansfield, earlier this week (Tuesday 6 March 2018).
Sixteen-year-old Connor was nominated by the college for the way he has worked so hard to overcome his considerable difficulties and disabilities which impact daily on his mental health.
A traumatic early life led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and the impact of this, coupled with the complexity of his autistic spectrum disorder and mental health difficulties, on Connor’s resilience and response to the world around him cannot be underestimated.

Connor, who has a twin sister Caitlin, has high levels of anxiety, which can be incapacitating, but is a characteristic of ASD, where there is an overwhelming need to have a strict routine and fine detail to any change explained several times. Furthermore, Connor manages to sleep for only three to four hours a night, despite medication to help not only his anxiety but also his sleep pattern.

When the time came to take the next step from school to college, Connor showed enormous courage in adapting to the change; becoming a “model student” with a near-perfect 99.17% attendance on the Entry 3 Diploma in Skills for Working in Catering and Hospitality Industries course.

Going forward, Connor wants to be a chef and he currently works at Rumbles Café at Sutton Lawn on Sunday mornings, which has given him the confidence to pursue this as a career.

Angela Taylor, college co-ordinator for learners with EBD/ASD/MH difficulties, who nominated Connor for the award, said: “It was a massive upheaval for Connor to leave the safety of the school environment, where they had come to understand him. When faced with changes to his routine, Connor describes this as ‘being out of control’, so we had to work tightly with the school and his guardians to ensure the transition was as smooth as possible. But Connor showed enormous courage in participating in his transition and asked many questions.

“Connor is a model student who takes his studies very seriously. He makes use of all his time at college, using his independent study productively, and his dedication to improving his skills shows how this young man is not going to be defeated. And we have the privilege of watching Connor continue to grow and pursue his ambitions.

“The courage Connor shows, in overcoming the considerable difficulties in his young life, is a shining example to us all.”

There to see Connor collect his award were his proud guardians, uncle and aunt Patrick and Claire Keane.

Patrick said: “We’re immensely proud of Connor. Just coming to West Notts has been an amazing achievement by him. The work he’s had to put in to overcome all his difficulties, and the work that Angela and the team have put in, is absolutely superb, and we can’t thank them enough for all that they’ve done for him.

“Seeing Connor collect his award was everything we could ever wish for. It was very emotional and humbling to hear what these children and young people have to go through to achieve what they have.”

Connor said: “It was amazing. I still can’t believe I’ve got a courage award – I’m really proud of myself. When my name was read out, I felt proud but also quite shocked that I was nominated. Even on those mornings when I get up and feel that I can’t face college, I still go and give it 100%. It’s really nice to be recognised for that.”

Nicky Tomlinson-Murphy, Mansfield Rotary Club president, said: “It was an extremely moving presentation and each of the nominees are all deserving of an honour for the way they have shown courage over their own adversity.

“This has been truly exemplified by all the young people here today, but also by the parents, siblings, grandparents and carers of these amazing young people who share in their lives and live with their difficulties.”

Special guest, Mansfield Mayor Kate Allsop, said: “I have been moved to tears more than once this afternoon. Those who nominated these fantastic young people have given us an absolute picture of what their lives are like, and why they deserve the courage awards they have got. We have heard about courage, bravery and selflessness – I’ve got nothing but admiration for these children and people who help to support them.

“Everyone’s heart has been touched today.”