Inspirational student presented special award by Dragons’ Den star

An aspiring entrepreneur studying with the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy at Dudley College has won the organisation’s Inspirational Student award.

Seventeen-year-old Samantha Jessop, who has a hearing impairment, was presented the accolade by star of Dragons’ Den Peter Jones CBE at London’s Freemasons’ Hall yesterday, as part of the academy’s annual graduation ceremony.

She was chosen for the honour in recognition of her achievements on the course.

Samantha, of Stourbridge, said: “I wasn’t expecting to win, but when they started to announce the winner and said hearing impairment I knew it was me. Initially I was a little embarrassed and nearly slid under my seat.

“My award was sponsored by Cannon and I received an amazing camera as a gift. I was really overwhelmed and nearly cried. Graduation was the most amazing day that I’ve ever had and I literally cannot thank them enough – I was the happiest girl in the world and I still am.”

During her time with the academy, Samantha has developed an idea for a business that supports other young people with hearing disabilities.

She explained that since starting the course, she has grown in self-confidence and taken on many challenges outside her comfort zone.

She continued: “The academy means the world to me – it’s changed my whole life. My confidence was really low before starting the course and now it’s building up. I’m really proud to be a member of the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy at Dudley College and I will never be able to thank everybody that has helped me through the course enough.”

Samantha received the award in front of hundreds of fellow Peter Jones Enterprise Academy students, who came together at the prestigious venue from colleges across the country.

She was one of a select few to pick up special honours on the day, while all those graduating collected scrolls from Mr Jones on stage.

Victoria Greaves, Samantha’s Business Enterprise Manager, said: “Samantha has been an inspiration to everyone at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy in Dudley College. She doesn’t let anything stand in her way and she’s an absolute pleasure to have in the academy.

“She confronts any challenges that arise and takes the lead a lot in group tasks. I’m delighted she’s been given this award – she’s a very deserving winner and we’re all incredibly proud of her.”

The Peter Jones Enterprise Academy – run by the Peter Jones Foundation – is a nationwide network of colleges that deliver specialist courses in enterprise and entrepreneurship, promoting a practical approach to education.

Students are encouraged to set up and run their own businesses, from which they gain real-life experience of what it takes to get a company off the ground.

Victoria went on to say: “The Peter Jones Enterprise Academy at Dudley College aims to develop the whole person. Students are taught the most up to date business methods and theories by a highly experienced team led by dedicated tutor Jonathan Edwards. Students also engage with the local business community on a weekly basis, take part in regular challenges and gain unique experiences.”

“This combined approach of academic and practical learning nurtures future talent from across the Black Country and Birmingham and produces some exceptional young people who have the skills to either go onto self-employment, higher education or get to a top role in an established business.”

Peter Jones Foundation CEO Alice Barnard said: “Today was the perfect celebration of what’s been a very successful year for our students. So many of them have achieved truly remarkable things during their time with us and we are so proud to see how far they’ve come.  

 “This has been an exceptional cohort and we’ve no doubt that they’ll go on to great things in the future.”

The winner of the National Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Kamal Hyman, 21, secured £5,000 funding for his motivational speaking Business, Aim a Little Higher.

During the ceremony, the students received video messages of congratulations from various celebrities, including Robbie Williams, Alan Sugar and Michael McIntyre.