A student studying a supported learning course at Nottingham College is succeeding against the odds, as she competes for the title of World Champion in the Special Needs Taekwondo Games in New Zealand later this year.
Sixteen-year-old Angel Stevens, from Eastwood, was fostered by her great-aunt, Sally Stevens, along with her two sisters, 14 years ago, due to personal circumstances. Angel has dealt with challenges all her life. She was born with the rare condition Foetal Valproate Syndrome. As a result, Angel experiences speech and learning difficulties. She also has scoliosis (curvature of the spine); abnormalities of skull formation; and she’s on the autistic spectrum.
Despite these difficulties, and with the support of her foster parents Sally and Andy, Angel has found a real passion for Taekwon-Do and has been attending a mainstream class since the age of just three.
Foster mum, Sally, who is also Angel’s coach, explains: “Taekwon-Do has been part of my life for over 25 years. My two sons are both five times world champions and my foster daughter, Kerryanne Stevens, is also a world champion. We have 13 black belts between us in our family, including myself and my husband. Angel took an immediate interest in the sport and she gets so much out of it, both physically and mentally, we’re so proud of her.”
Due to a lack of special needs Taekwon-Do organisations in the UK, Angel has always been a member of a mainstream class, but when Sally heard that the Special Needs Taekwon-Do Games was coming to Brighton back in 2016 she emailed the organisers to ask if Angel could take part.
Sally explains: “It was an opportunity that I didn’t want Angel to miss out on. It turned out that she was the only girl competing, but she exceeded all expectations and took away the gold medal. When she competes in October she’ll be fighting to keep her title of World Champion.
“Taking Angel to New Zealand is an honour and a privilege. She has worked and trained so hard and it’s a real achievement. She has had a lot of setbacks but has now found joy and success through sport.
“I would encourage anyone, whether they have special needs or not, to get active and try new things. If you work hard and want something enough, you really can achieve anything.”
Angel is very excited about her trip to New Zealand. She said:
I am looking forward to seeing the friends I made back in 2016 in Brighton. Taekwondo makes me so happy. If I’ve had a bad day it calms me down and cheers me up. I am excited to take part in the competition and I hope to bring back the gold medal because I want to be a champion!- Angel Stevens
This is Angel’s second year at Nottingham College, where she studies a supported learning, Entry Level 3 course, aimed at students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (SLDD). Her Personal Tutor, Zubia Haque, said:
“During the time that Angel has been with us, she has not only grown in confidence, but she also shows fantastic resilience during each task and challenge she is given. Myself and the other SLDD staff members are very proud of her achievements. She puts a lot of time and effort into training for her Taekwondo classes and competitions, and now the hard work has paid off. We wish her all the very best in the Taekwondo games, and hope that she has a fantastic time in New Zealand.”
Angel is one of many competitors from across the world taking part in New Zealand on the 5th October, but she is the only competitor from the UK.
The family are in the process of raising money to help fund the trip, including kit, travel, and accommodation. To donate, please visit their Just Giving page.