Rising Stars Stories

Below are several stories from families that we have helped with our rising stars bursary.

Louis with father Ken and his Award

Louis with father Ken and his Award.

"Highly Commended" Award for Louis

A "Highly Commended" Award went to 11-year-old rising Table Tennis star Louis Cheung-Turner in the prestigious 2019 Sefton Sports Awards in June, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to sport in the Sefton area, Merseyside.

Sports Personality of the Year award

Louis, along with four other worthy nominees, was nominated for the category 'Junior Sports Personality of the Year' at this year's Awards ceremony.

The winner of the prestigious award was 14-year-old Jack Wishart for his national and international medal success in Taekwondo. Well done to Louis for coming runner up in this category of junior rising stars and being recognised for his contribution to sport in the region.


Louis in action.

Louis in action.

A Rising Star of Table Tennis

Louis Cheung-Turner, who was awarded a POOBI "Rising Stars" bursary in 2018, is a rising star in the junior table tennis world.

He started playing table tennis in after-school club three years ago when he was 8 years of age. His coach, Paul Gittins soon spotted Louis had a special talent and he introduced Louis and his parents to Andrew Rushton, who at the time was Head Coach at Halton Table Tennis Club in Widnes. Andrew is a former National and World Doubles' Champion and Commonwealth Games medallist, and is now a GB Paralympic Performance Coach. Louis trains at Halton Table Tennis Club with Kevin Dolder and also continues to have coaching with Andrew Rushton.

Louis competed in his first full table tennis season in 2017/18 and became National Champion for U10 Boys in June 2018. He was also England No.1 for U10 Boys from March 2018 and then U11 Boys up until March 2019. Currently ranked England No.2 for U11 Boys and No.8 for U12 Boys. Louis competed in his first International Open Table Tennis Tournament in February 2018 in Budapest, Hungary, when he was 9 years old and again in the same tournament last February, where he reached the last 16 from 56 players, representing 24 countries.

Louis with his parents in Budapest.

Louis with his parents in Budapest.

In August 2018, Louis was selected for the England Hopes Squad and in April this year he was chosen to represent England at the British Primary Schools' Home International Championships in Lisburn, Northern Ireland where he was in the gold winning England team. Most recently, on 27th April, Louis competed in the English Schools' Individual Championships in Wolverhampton, representing Merseyside and Great Crosby Catholic Primary School and reached the quarter-finals. It was a strong competition with 46 players / counties competing.

Louis' father, Ken, who has worked for Royal Mail Mossley Hill Sorting Office in Liverpool for 20 years, can play table tennis, but he can't compete with Louis now!

Louis and his England team mates in Lisburn.

Louis and his England team mates in Lisburn.

Mel, Louis' mother, told us "The POOBI grant has helped enormously towards covering expenses for training camps, tournament costs, travel and accommodation, which comes with competing in many tournaments nationwide and internationally. Louis is also sponsored by table tennis equipment and clothing supplier, Thornton's Table Tennis and Stiga, a leading brand name in the sport, which helps considerably towards the cost of table tennis equipment and clothing which can be expensive."

"It is important for Louis' development that he continues to train at the highest level with England / GB coaches and the coaches at his club. Also representing his country in an international arena where possible. International experience at a young age is invaluable for athletes in any sport," said Mel.

And Louis' ultimate dream and ambition would be to represent Great Britain at the Olympics one day!


Isabella Deb dancing to a Paquita variation.

Isabella dancing to a Paquita variation.

Dreaming of a career in Dance

Isabella Deb, who turned 13 years of age on 24th March 2019, received her first POOBI "Rising Stars" bursary in December 2017 to help with the cost of her dance training and last December her second bursary secured her dance training with the highly regarded Renaissance Arts Scholars whose dance classes are held at Northern Ballet Leeds where she trains fortnightly on a Sunday. Isabella was also re-accepted for the York Scholars training course for a further year. Her training covers Classical Ballet, Modern and Song and Dance.

Isabella's father, Roy Deb, is a professional HGV driver at the Yorkshire Distribution Centre in Normanton, Wakefield and has worked for Royal Mail since 2001. He told us "The bursaries awarded by POOBI have helped us immensely to enable our daughter to further her dance training across two excellent centres, in addition to her regular classes. Dance training can be very expensive and the extra funding makes such a difference."

Isabella Deb playing Nancy from Oliver, performing Oom-pah-pah.

Isabella playing Nancy from Oliver, performing Oom-pah-pah.

Isabella has been dancing since she was aged 5 and currently dances at the Turning Pointe Dance studios in Doncaster. She was also accepted into the Louise Browne Yorkshire Ballet Scholarship Centre when she was 9 years old. In July 2018 Isabella achieved a Distinction in her Grade 5 Royal Academy of Dance Ballet exam and has recently taken her RAD Intermediate Foundation examination.

Mum, Lisa, said "Isabella would like to focus on her training rather than spend too much time in Competition Dance as it demands a lot of time away from her important training programmes. We are really pleased with Isabella's progress this year. She continues to show focus and improvement in all areas, taking classes 6 or 7 days every week and most importantly she thoroughly enjoys what she is doing."

Isabella currently assists junior dancers at her dance school in Doncaster for about 5 hours a week under the supervision of the principal Miss Kimberley Roberts. She has recently started working to gain a pre-associate qualification with the International Dance Teachers Association, which is the first step towards gaining an associate teaching qualification. "I enjoy the experience as I learn so much from it and I find it is improving my confidence," said Isabella. As part of the syllabus she will learn the correct techniques and skills required to assist a qualified teacher, including a thorough understand of anatomy and physiology.

"My family has sacrificed a lot to make sure I can follow my dream of becoming a professional dancer and the support of POOBI has helped me greatly", Isabella said.


Esther with her proud parents Adunola and Ayinke.

Esther with her proud parents Adunola and Ayinke.

15-year-old has mental health book published

The 15-year-old daughter of a Royal Mail postman, Adunola Showemimo, has had a book on mental health for teens, "People Like Us", published last November. Adunola has worked at the Stanstead Airport cargo section as an OPG for 10 years.

His daughter, Esther, wrote the book with a 16-year-old friend, Daisy Robins, who shares her passion for helping young people with mental health issues. The book explores the reality of teens trying to navigate their way through a technology dictated world and the mental health issues they have. It took five months to plan, write and edit the book.

Esther Showemimo.

Esther Showemimo.

Esther said "The book is meant to be a tool to provide comfort and advice for teens across the world, who feel they have no one to care or provide support for them. I believe young people do not receive enough support on mental health issues."

Esther is Head Girl at Harris Academy in Rainham, Essex and will shortly be starting sixth form college.

The launch event for "People Like Us" took place at Esther's school on 21 November 2018 and was aimed at promoting a conversation surrounding technology and mental health issues in teens. The launch was covered by the Romford Recorder and a detailed story was carried on their on-line news pages.

The book is currently being sold on Amazon as a paperback in Europe, USA and Japan.

The front cover of People Like Us

The cover of "People Like Us".

"I am extremely grateful to POOBI for providing me with a grant that will allow me to travel and to buy tickets to events where I can publicise the book," Esther said.

Esther does support work for Cypher App Ltd., a mental health company that encourages young people to anonymously share their feelings and seek advice from professional organisations regarding their wellbeing. It was the CEO of Cypher App, Seun Oshinaika, who encouraged Esther and her friend to write the book as a project, giving them only rough ideas around the topic to help them.

Esther is a co-founder at Cypher App. She moderates the site's backend system, reading the comments and posts to flag up anything that goes against the safeguarding guidelines. She is also a member of the human resources team, helping to plan group meetings and social events for the team.

"At school, I was encouraged by the head of the school council to sign up for the Havering Youth Council when I was aged 12. I took part in many mental health related projects over a few years and I developed a love for helping people in need," Esther said.

This set her on the path she is now on.


Callie Ramshaw in the 200m Butterfly

Callie in Butterfly action.

A Rising Star of swimming

A POOBI "Rising Stars" bursary was awarded to Callie Ramshaw in December 2017 to help improve her already advanced swimming ability. Callie started swimming competitively aged nine and joined Doncaster Darts Swimming Club Elite programme when she was just 10 years old. She concentrates on the butterfly and freestyle strokes, competing at County and National level.

Callie swam in 71 races in 13 different competitions last year. She qualified in the top 20 in the country to compete in the English National Swimming Championships in the 200m butterfly, which took place on 3rd August 2018 at Ponds Forge in Sheffield, and she finished seventh in the final. Callie was among a select group to go on a training camp in Majorca last October for more specialist training.

Callie Ramshaw

Callie with her Yorkshire Championship trophy.

Over three weekends in February this year, Callie competed in the Yorkshire Swimming Championships in Leeds and Sheffield over 11 different events in the 16 year age group. It was her most successful Yorkshire Championships where she made it to the final of all 11 events and won the Gold medal in the 800m freestyle, becoming Yorkshire Champion. Callie also won the Silver medal in the 1500m freestyle. Two fantastic swims.

Callie's father, Stephen Ramshaw, has worked for Royal Mail for nearly 14 years as a delivery postman at Doncaster delivery office. He said "Before the POOBI bursary my wife and I had to pay for all of Callie's training, equipment, costumes, entry fees to competitions, hotel costs for national and regional competitions etc. The bursary has helped us a great deal. It would have been impossible for Callie to attend the intensive training camp in Majorca last year without it and she has been selected again to attend another training camp in Fuerteventura in October 2019."

As part of Callie's normal swimming routine, on three weekday mornings she is in the pool at 5am. Dad Stephen drops her off at 4.45am and sleeps in the car until he has to start work. Mum, Sue, picks her up at 7am to take her to school. On three weekday evenings Dad takes Callie for 2 to 3 hour training sessions in the pool and on one evening she has one hour's land training as well.

"Without the support of POOBI I would not have had the opportunity to get the extra specialist training that the overseas camps provide and the chance to train in a 50m pool, which they do not have in Doncaster. I have become extremely committed to swimming over the years and I am dedicated to improving my strokes and furthering my success as a swimmer", Callie told us.

Callie is preparing to compete in the first of three National qualifying time trial events where the fastest 24 swimmers in Britain and top 20 in England go through to the British and English National Championships to be held in July and August 2019.


Alexander Harford as Lockhart

Alexander as Gilbert Worthy in the Academy's production of "Lockhart".

An actor's life for me

In June 2017 Alexander Harford successfully completed a 3-year BA Honours Degree Course at Mount View Academy of Theatre Arts in Wood Green, London, which was partly funded by a POOBI bursary.

Alexander started the course in September 2014. He was one of only 36 budding actors to be selected by the Academy from some 6,000 applicants. "It has been the most intense three years of my life. I now have an agent and I am looking for acting work. In the meantime I have had to take a day job," Alexander told us.

Alexander Harford as Robby the Stockfish of Urintown

Alexander (centre) as Robby the Stockfish in the Academy's production of "Urintown".

"I will be forever grateful to POOBI for making it possible for me to pursue my chosen career. Not only have they helped me, they have supported my Mum and Dad through the time I spent at drama school. Without any of this the past three years would have been a very different story, so thank you," said Alexander.

Alexander's father, Michael Harford, has been a postman for the past 26 years at Stockport, Cheshire.


Matthew Bates

Aiming to be a professional classical dancer

Matthew Bates, aged 17, whose father, Steve, is a postman at Welton, Lincolnshire, has been having dancing lessons since he was six. His dancing teacher, Joanne Haylock, encouraged Matthew to audition for The Royal Ballet School Junior Associate programme when he was in Year 3. He was successful and every other Saturday he went to Covent Garden to train. In Year 6 he successfully auditioned to join The Royal Ballet School full time – one of only 12 boys accepted each year.

Matthew Bates

From age 11, Matthew went to live and train at The Royal Ballet School at White Lodge, Richmond Park. During his Year 11, alongside his GCSEs, he successfully auditioned to join The Royal Ballet Upper School against tough international competition and started training at Covent Garden. He has to pass annual assessments to maintain his place.

In January 2017 he was selected as the only male student to represent the school in Japan where he took part in demonstrations and workshops for a week.

Matthew's mother, Helen, told us "Without the support of the POOBI "Rising Stars" bursary and from a Music and Dance Scholarship, which is means tested, we could not have managed to pay for Matt's dance schooling. Matthew has secured his place for the next academic year at The Royal Ballet Upper School, but he will need to secure a further year if he is to make it as a professional classical dancer. His goal is to be a principal dancer with The Royal Ballet Company."


Elliot Robinson

Elliot Robinson.

A budding Yorkshire cricketer

Eleven-year-old Elliot Robinson is a budding Yorkshire cricketer, who is being helped with a POOBI "Rising Stars" bursary of £750, which he received in November 2016. He started playing cricket when he was just 5-years-old for the Cullingworth Cobras Under 9s side. He now plays for the Cobras Under 11s and Under 13s sides as well as the Upper Airedale Junior Cricket Association, Bradford & Calderdale District.

Elliot's father, David, who is a postman at Bradford Valley, is a keen cricketer, having played since he was ten years old and today still plays and runs two junior teams.

Elliot Robinson with the bat

Elliot with the bat.

David told us "Elliot was selected for the Yorkshire under 11s A team again this year and in his first match he took four wickets. He has had cricket training from me and the Cricket Asylum and Silver Pathways at Headingley, the home of Yorkshire Cricket Club, for the last two years. Elliot's ambition is to play for Yorkshire and progress to playing for England.

"A big thank you to POOBI for the "Rising Stars" bursary, The money we received to help Elliot's progress is a real help to the family and we really appreciate it."


Nesta Baxter - WAKO World Kickboxing Champion

Nesta with the Junior Team Winners trophy at the WAKO World Championships in Dublin 2016.

Nesta, the GB Kickboxing champion

Nesta Baxter, 17, whose father Nigel is a postman in Boston, Lincolnshire, is the reigning WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Associations) British National Champion in both styles of Kickboxing, Point Fighting and Continuous Kickboxing - and has been for the past five years. Overall, in the past five years, Nesta has claimed 10 WAKO British Champion titles.

POOBI awarded the first of three annual Rising Stars bursaries to Nesta in 2014. "The support of these bursary funds has been a big help in my Junior amateur international Kickboxing career", said Nesta.

"I started taking Kickboxing classes at the age of 4. I began competing when I was 8 and then properly competing at a National level at the age of 12. I started representing my country at the age of 13 in September 2014 when I was selected for the WAKO GB Team to compete in the WAKO Junior European Kickboxing Championships in Poland." she told us.

Nesta's biggest achievement to date was in September last year at the WAKO World Kickboxing Championship in Dublin, where she represented Team GB in the Team Event - consisting of 4 males and 2 females - and we won the World Title.

Nesta Baxter

Nesta competing and winning in the Athens Challenge Tournament 2017.

Currently Nesta has won 28 Gold medals internationally in Greece, Croatia, Czech Republic, Holland, Spain, Scotland and Ireland.

"I would like to say a very big thank you to POOBI for the three bursaries I have received, which have helped me so much to achieve my goals in my sport of Kickboxing, through your kindness I will be able to continue representing my country in the sport I love", said Nesta.

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