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Aspiration Awards 2023: Against All Odds – Gabriella Fox
Designed to recognise learners who have overcome difficult personal circumstances in order to succeed in their studies, the Against All Odds award is very special and always attracts a huge volume of nominations. This year’s winner is Gabriella Fox, an inspiring individual who is learning remotely through Technology Triumphs.
Born with the rare syndrome VACTERL (Vertebral defects. Anorectal anomalies. Cardiac defects. Tracheo-oesphageal fistula/oesophageal atresia, Renal abnormalities, Limb defects) which affects various parts of the body, Gabriella has had over 35 operations over the last 17 years. She also has an unrelated health condition that has resulted in her spending up to 10 days at a time each month in bed, unable to move, eat or drink. Aged 10, her parents were advised to remove her from school and educate her at home so that she could learn when she was (un)well and pause her education when required.
However, Gabriella wouldn’t let this stop her from getting an education, particularly in creative and practical subjects. In January 2022, she began her NCFE Level 2 Certificate in Creative Craft (Cookery) and successfully completed this in June this year.
Overcoming the odds
Preparing food can be a challenge for Gabriella as she is missing part of her left arm and hand and has little movement in the remaining fingers. Regardless of this, she cuts, chops, mixes, rolls and stirs, finding new ways to do it if the conventional way doesn’t work for her.
Even more remarkably, Gabriella has chosen to study the cookery qualification despite being born without part of her oesophagus. This means that even though the oesophagus has been surgically repaired, it can narrow at times, so she sometimes struggles to swallow food with different textures. She also has a permanent feeding tube to give her extra nutrition when she is sick and on medication.
Gabriella has embraced the challenge and has attempted to cook and taste all the recipes given to her, never refusing to try something new. Outside of her academic studies, Gabriella is achieving ‘against the odds’ in other areas too. In 2021, she was crowned the ‘Riding for the Disabled Unclassified National Dressage Champion’. She also has her own dog walking business and sells dog birthday cakes that are not only safe for the owners to eat as well but taste delicious! Alongside this, Gabriella also spends time going out on operations as a Police Cadet.
Pip Rothwell, Managing Director of Technology Triumphs Ltd, commented on why Gabriella’s win is incredibly well deserved: “At the age of 17, she is very small for her age but her confidence has grown hugely since studying the creative craft (cookery) qualification. She is determined and tenacious and as Shakespeare once said; ‘Though she be but little, she is fierce!’”
Gabriella and her mum holding the Against All Odds winner award
Louise Fox, Gabriella’s mum, added: “I’ve seen Gabriella at her lowest, but I’ve also seen her overcome that and achieve amazing things. For her to have won this award just makes me incredibly proud of her, to see how she’s grown and to see that be recognised. I’m just really proud to be her mum!”
Philip Le Feuvre, Chief Strategy Officer at NCFE and one of the judges for this award definitely felt she was a deserving winner of the Against All Odds category, and said: “Gabriella’s determination to gain a qualification in cookery, against adversity that few of us will know or can comprehend, is both inspiring and humbling.
"She has battled with significant barriers to learning that have meant she can only access education from home, and yet she has adapted and thrived. Her desire to gain skills and knowledge, primarily so she can bring food and joy to others, makes her a worthy winner of this award.”
Congratulations Gabriella! To read more inspirational stories from this year's award winners and recipients, visit our Aspiration Awards 2023 page.
Against All Odds 2023 winner: Gabriella Fox
Watch: see Gabriella Fox receive her award
Our Centre of the Year winner is Learning Curve Group, who impressed the judges with their dedication to their learners’ needs, ensuring that every learner receives equal opportunities.
Our Against All Odds highly commended recipient is Cerys Ventre, a student at New College Durham who continues to demonstrate outstanding determination, perseverance and a desire to give back.
Our Learner of the Year winner is Harry Disney, a hardworking individual who gives his all to everything he does and is currently studying the T Level in Health at Loughborough College.