Dancing her way out of darkness, Iona has a future that is so bright
AFTER reading the inspirational stories of the teenagers she was up against in her award category, Iona Banton didn't think for a second that she would be named the winner.
But although judges had a tough time choosing the most deserving story, Iona's continued courage, resilience, determination and positivity shone through – even as she battled through bereavement and the breakdown of her parents' relationship.
The 16-year-old is also a talented dancer and has become a role model for younger pupils at her school by selflessly running a dance club for year seven and eight pupils who were having behavioural and emotional problems.
"I'd read about the others and didn't think I'd be the one," she said, as she left the stage after collecting her award on Wednesday. "It just feels great.
"I'm only from Aspley, this tiny little area, and hardly anyone knows me. I'm just speechless."
Iona's troubles started at a young age when she witnessed the separation of her parents. This and the murder of her cousin resulted in a rift in the family.
Iona, who attends Nottingham Girls Academy, was also often called upon to take on a parenting role to her younger brothers, one of whom has ADHD.
Her grandparents also died.
In year 11, she attempted suicide after an especially bad time at home. But once again Iona's steely determination not to let troubling circumstances get in her way overcame the adversity she faced.
She has worked her way into the sixth form at the Nottingham Girls' Academy, picking up a remarkable 15 A* to C grades at GCSE, and continues to develop her dancing, with her sights set on a career as a primary school teacher.
"I want to be successful," said Iona, of Corporation Oaks, off Woodborough Road. "Things have been tough at times but I really like to be able to inspire people."
Iona was nominated for the accolade by her dance teacher at the academy, Jo Hawley.
Ms Hawley said: "How she copes is inspirational to me.
"She took on some naughty pupils in her classes but got them focused as she was able to relate to them. She is an exceptional dancer and inspires others both in school and the community.
"Despite her family problems, she just gets on with it.
"The setbacks she has suffered have made her a stronger person and have driven her aspiration to go to university to study dance, with the possibility of her having a career as a primary school teacher."