THE achievements of a young man who fled battle-scarred Iraq for a new life in Cumbria have been hailed as an inspiration.

The presentation of the Against All Odds award to 19-year-old Omer Jawdat was one of the highlights of the night at the 2019 Golden Apple Awards

Omer, who now lives in Seaton, Workington, arrived in the county last year able to speak very little English.

But he soon began learning the language, and wowed teachers and judges in overcoming some major changes in just a short space of time.

After hours of hard work, the judges were heartened by his story and presented him the prestigious Against All Odds award, proudly watched on by his dad.

Omer said: “My family moved from Iraqi to Lebanon after a car bomb exploded near our house.

“We didn’t feel secure and it was very hard to live there.

“As soon as I got off the plane once we arrived in the UK I felt safe and secure, but also excited.

“Cumbria is great place. Everything is beautiful and the people are nice.

“My education has been very good. I started English lessons and now I have moved to college and I’m doing as much as I can.”

The awards ceremony, presented by News & Star publishers Newsquest Cumbria, took place at Energus, Lillyhall, near Workington, on Friday night.

The evening brought together those from all areas of education across the county to reflect and reward the amazing results and tireless dedication to making a different to those in classrooms, nurseries and universities and all manner of workplaces.

The Golden Apples - which had the University of Cumbria and Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership as its sponsors - highlight the very best of education and learning across the county.

Other impressive individual achievements included those of Ulverston teenager Benjamin McKenna, who works at Glaxo Smith-Kline, where he is in year three of an apprenticeship in electrical and and instrumentation. He is also an ambassador for STEM-related apprenticeships. Judges heard that he was a great role model for others to follow.

He was hailed by the judges for his ‘exceptional’ work, and took home the award for best apprentice.

The 19-year-old said: “It’s absolutely fantastic, over the last three years I’ve been working so hard towards my apprenticeship and helping other apprentices in my area.

“To be recognised for an award like this goes to show there are other routes into jobs and you don’t have to go to university.

“I’m really proud of what I have achieved and couldn’t have done it without my fantastic boss Terry.”

Among the schools to be recognised was Stanwix School in Carlisle, which won best primary, with North Walney Primary highly commended in the same category,

Delighted Stanwix headteacher Kuldip McMullan said: “It’s fantastic. This is a team effort. I’ve got really dedicated and committed staff, supportive parents and absolutely fantastic children.

“I think we just do so much - we do multicultural week, health week, and science week - where we involve parents.”

There was also success for Belle Vue Primary School in Carlisle with Sandra Allen winning best teaching assistant.

She said: “I’ve been lucky in my career, I have worked predominantly with three children and always had parents’ support.”

There was joy for Energy Coast UTC and Morgan Sindell, who won best industry engagement initiative.

Gillian Johnston, of Morgan Sindall said: “We were really surprised to win as there were other worthy nominations, but we’re delighted.

“We have supported and run four employer engagement programmes so far and it is genuinely one of the most rewarding time of the year for our teams.

“We’re privileged to work with students and give them than insight into the work we do.

“Our overall aim is to encourage students into our industry and upskill local people where possible supporting young people where possible.”

Elsewhere, student Billy Robinson, 18, from Cockermouth School, picked up the award on behalf of the school for health and wellbeing.

He said: “It’s great the school has been recognised for the amazing, innovative approach that has been taken.

“All the staff have been supportive from the get-go. They’ve allowed the students to come up with brilliant ways to tackle the issues surrounding mental health in young people, and brilliant relationships have been built between staff and students.”

Roll of honour

n Best Teaching Assistant: Sandra Allen, Belle Vue Primary School, Carlisle

n Best Support Staff: Clare Stabler, NADT, Wigton

n Best Student: Harrison Savage, Netherhall School, Maryport

n Best Secondary School: Energy Coast UTC, Workington

n Best Primary School: Stanwix, Carlisle. Highly commended: North Walney.

n Best Learning, Development and Training Provider: System People and Cumbria Learning and Improvement Collaborative

n Best Industry Engagement Initiative: UTC / Morgan Sindall

n Best Inclusion Initiative: People First, Carlisle

n Best Newcomer: Jamie Lee Robinson, Lakes College, Workington

n Best Education and Learning Leader: Clare Render, Good Shepherd Multi-Academy Trust. Highly commended: Andrew Beattie, Pennine Way School, Carlisle

n Best Use of Technology: North Allerdale Development Trust, Wigton

n Best Teaching Professional: Mark Bailey, Netherhall School, Maryport

n Best Early Years Provider: Kiddlywinks, Penrith

n Best Community Initiative: Girls Gang - Cumbria County Council and University of Cumbria. Highly commended: Energy Coast UTC; Cumbria Constabulary and Ewanrigg Junior School, Maryport

n Best Apprentice: Benjamin McKenna, Glaxo Smith Kline

n Against All Odds: Omer Jawdat, student, Lakes College, Lillyhall

n Lifetime Achievement: Margaret Bravo, St Peter’s Pre-School, Carlisle

n Health and Wellbeing: Cockermouth School