AN INSPIRATIONAL student who is living with disabilities and learning difficulties has been named as a finalist for a national award.

Billy Gibbons, 18, from Westcliff who studies public services at the South Essex College Southend Campus, has made the final of the Association of Colleges’ Student of the Year awards in the Young Student of the Year category.

He has achieved a distinction in every assessment during his course, despite living with profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, significant speech and language delay, developmental delay and an auditory processing impairment.

He communicates using what is known as total communication, which combines British Sign Language, lip reading, speaking and listening.

He also has mild cerebral palsy affecting mainly his lower limbs and helps care for his twin sister, Grace, who is also living with disabilities.

Billy said: “I feel really happy that I’ve been nominated, even though it was a shock.

“It means a lot to me because people know how hard I work and I always try to get distinctions.

“I get support in class from educational communicators Debbie Hey and Alison Friend who help me with understanding the tasks I need to do.

“My tutor Donna James always encourages me to achieve my best.”

The teenager went to Buckingham palace to receive his gold Duke of Edinburgh award for his volunteering work with Thurrock charity ‘Kids First’.

He has completed training as a fire cadet within Essex County Fire and Rescue Service. His, tutor Donna James said: “Billy shows others there are no limits to what you can achieve.

“He never complains about his situation, he simply works out solutions to any issues he faces without drama or negativity.

“He can inspire people facing all types of barriers whether this be a disability, a family issue, a mental issue or a health issue, that if you focus on your goals, remain positive and work hard good things will result.”

The awards will be announced on Tuesday November 19 during the Association of Colleges’ annual conference.