AN inspirational student living with disabilities and learning difficulties has won a national award.

Billy Gibbons who studies public services at the South Essex College Southend Campus, picked up the top gong when he was named the Association of Colleges’ ‘Young Student of the Year’.

The 18-year-old, from Westcliff, lives 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.

The student received his award at a ceremony during the Association of Colleges’ annual conference in Birmingham on Tuesday.

He said: “I am so proud of myself because everyone at the awards deserved to win.

“This has definitely given me the extra confidence to know I can achieve great things and will help me when I leave college and decide what to do next.

“It means a lot to me because I work hard and I’m fortunate to have amazing support at the college to help me.

“I think the biggest thing anyone can do is believe in themselves.”

Earlier this year, Billy went to Buckingham Palace to receive his gold Duke of Edinburgh award for his volunteering work with charity ‘Kids First’.

The charity is part of Thurrock and District Cerebral Palsy Society offering support and opportunities to children in the community.

While doing this he was also working as a volunteer in a PHAB shop and has also volunteered within the Royal Association for Deaf People, helping out with sailing trips.

He also plays cricket for Essex Ability, swims with Runnymede Swim Club and has completed training as a fire cadet within Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.