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Three cheers for our top citizens
SELFLESS citizens were rewarded for their dedication at an annual awards ceremony.
This year’s Citizen of Southend Awards were given out by Mayor of Southend, Sally Carr, at Porters, the mayor’s official residence.
The gold award this year went to a whole year group at St Hilda’s School in Westcliff , who supported fellow pupil Laurel Parker, who has a degenerative neurological condition and Asperger’s.
The 16 girls from the Imperial Avenue-based independent school received multiple nominations for the unfailing way they have cared for her over the past five years.
Special educational needs co-ordinator, Susan Todd, said: “From the moment they joined they have all made an enormous effort to ensure that Laurel felt part of the class, despite the fact she is less physically able than they are.
“They have all shown an insight and an understanding that is far beyond their years. They are a truly inspirational group of young women who deserve to be recognised for their care and sensitivity.”
Laurel also nominated her friends. She added: “The girls in my class have always been really friendly. They have always treated me just the same as they would treat anyone else. They have never drawn attention to my wheelchair or my need for gastrostomy feeds. I have been included in all activities and I know I am their friend.”
Lauren Cottis, 17, one of the pupils sent to collect the award on the school’s behalf, said: “We talked to her, made sure she was all right. If she was feeling ill, we made sure someone knew. We never made her feel different.
“I was surprised when we won. I wasn’t expecting it at all, we just treated her as a friend.”
The awards, in their sixth year, are designed to celebrate outstanding contributions to the community by an individual or group.
The winners were selected by a panel of Southend dignitaries, including former Southend East and Rochford MP Sir Teddy Taylor, Adventure Island executive chairman Philip Miller and former divisional commander of Southend Police and now Essex Police and Crime Commissioner candidate, Mick Thwaites.
The silver award winner was Colin Sedgwick, who has been recognised for 55 years of voluntary service with the Southend branch of the RNLI.
Mr Sedgwick, 69, who has been lifeboat operations manager for 25 years, was nominated by former Southend mayor, Ann Holland .
He said: “I am very honoured to have been given this award and would like to thank those people who nominated me. RNLI is a big part of my life, but I like to think I have served Southend in many other ways over the last 55 years and to me this feels like a thank you from the whole town.”
The winners receive a trophy and £500 for the gold award and £300 for the silver winner. Mr Sedgwick donated his winnings to the mayor’s charity fund.