A teaching assistant who was instrumental in setting up Ormiston Ilkeston Enterprise Academy’s links with Gambia has left after 22 years.
Denise Peck first started running the academy’s annual trip to Sir Dembo’s School in Gambia four years ago.
Her daughters’ partners are both Gambian and are connected to Sir Dembo’s and she wanted to show her support and give students a life-changing experience.
Denise joined OIEA when it was Ilkeston School and has mainly provided support for students with additional needs.
Her most recent role was as a teaching assistant in the Sixth Form where she offered support to students on the Learn to Earn course.
Kay Kearton, director of Sixth Form at OIEA, said everyone was sorry to see Denise leave.
She said: “Denise has been fantastic with the students; she has been so supportive and caring. She was basically our Sixth Form mum, she’s been a peacemaker and knew exactly when to intervene and when not to. She always went the extra mile, she has a big heart and we love her to pieces.”
Denise said some of her favourite memories of OIEA were from the trips to Gambia.
She said: “It’s always such an amazing experience for our students and during this year’s trip I’ve never seen it affect them so much.
“It’s so close to my heart and I think it’s such an achievement to have given so much support to Sir Dembo’s. It’s made such a difference to the Gambian people and to our own students.
“I’ve loved working here, especially in the Sixth Form, and I’ve seen a lot of changes. This is a very emotional time for me and I will miss everyone.”
During the annual trips to Gambia, students and staff take medical supplies, educational and sports equipment, as well as teaching and running activities in Sir Dembo’s School.
Student Chloe Badder-Walster, 17, said the support that students had received from Denise was invaluable.
She said: “Denise changed it all for me. I always felt like I was going to fail but she reassured me and whenever I wanted to give up she kept me going. She’s been there every step of the way through the Sixth Form and I’m so happy she was here.
“She’s been a massive support and I can’t thank her enough. She always puts others first and never thinks of herself. I’ve never heard her complain and she’s always been there for us. She’s a total star and I’m determined to go to Gambia again.”