HARD work, determination and a positive outlook on life are just some of the qualities that led to Zinnia Young being named Painting and Decorating Apprentice of the Year. 

Zinnia, who joined the North East Autism Society in 2017 as an apprentice painter and decorator, was the worthy winner at the Durham City Freemen Apprentice of the Year Awards, which took place at Durham Town Hall on Friday 30th June.

“It was a shock to be nominated,” she said. “Because some of the other students are in their second and third year of the course.”

The 28-year-old, who lives in Sunderland, was put forward for the award by her course tutor Terry Hollin-Grey, who credited Zinnia with “always putting the client first” and “always giving 100 per cent”.

“Zinnia is a good worker and always goes the extra mile to make sure the job is done well and to a high standard.” he said. “She is a model student.”

Zinnia’s manager Bob Richardson, Head of Maintenance, added: “Since employing Zinnia as a decorator apprentice, she has proven to be a valued member of my staff. 

I am so proud of her achievements as her manager, she is keen, dedicated and very conscientious with her post. A model employee.

Having had a difficult childhood, Zinnia took up decorating as a hobby at the age of 13 as a way of managing her mental health, adding that she finds it “therapeutic”.

She is currently working full time for NEAS whilst completing her Level 2 Standard at New College Durham, having already achieved her Level 2 NVQ and Diploma. And, once she has passed her exams, Zinnia is hoping to go on to complete her NVQ Level 3.

“I love my job,” she added.

I love seeing the faces of the residents and making the houses feel more like a home. It fills me with joy and that’s the best part of the job for me.

Impressively, this is not the first time Zinnia has been recognised for her talents, as she previously met the Prince of Wales when she received the Rising Star accolade at the Centrepoint Awards in February 2018.

Speaking at the time, she said: “I am really proud – but it just seems so unbelievable. I couldn’t have imagined this at all.”

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