Current New College Pontefract student, Maisie Graham, age 17 from Barnsley, has been awarded a prestigious Diana Award. The award recognises young people from around the world for going above and beyond in their daily lives to create and sustain positive change. They are awarded for selflessly transforming the lives of others. In April 2015, Masie was paralysed from just below her chest downwards from the sudden onset of a virus called transverse myelitis. This is a neurological condition in which the spinal cord is inflamed and nerve fibres are damaged. Masie spent 8 months in hospital and on her release was given support from the spinal injuries charity, Backup. Masie is now a youth adviser for the charity, as well as a wheelchair skills trainer and a group leader and mentor for people who require help in adapting to their situation.
Masie said, “In the hospital, I had a sense of security like I didn’t have to face the real world, and when I was finally released I was terrified and had zero confidence. But after receiving the support from Backup, I am now as confident as ever, even more so than before my injury. I have been to Spain and Belgium with my best friends, I have been to France, and I am currently booking another holiday to go back to Benidorm. I have been skiing, joined a basketball team, I go canoeing and kayaking regularly and am always out camping with my friends. That said it’s not easy and sometimes I do have my bad days, but so does everyone. Sometimes in life you just have to adapt and make the best of a bad situation. I won’t let what happened to me stop me from doing the things I love. I am not going to let my wheelchair define me for who I am.
New College SENCO, Sharon Scholes added, “Maisie is an exceptional person, who has overcome significant barriers to live her life to the full and has done this with such generous positivity in supporting and helping others. She is an inspiration to all of our students on how to overcome adversity and live an independent life. Not only has she had to adjust to a physical disability, but she has also managed to maintain her studies and is on track to progress to a Foundation course and then university.”