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Serving up independence at StarBistro

Serving up independence at StarBistro

Before coming to National Star, Holly Holmes found it overwhelming to try anything new and would withdraw into her own small safe environment.

Holly has cerebral palsy, autism and some mobility difficulties. She also experiences social anxiety and large crowds can sometimes be overwhelming.

‘Holly had got to a point where she was withdrawing quite a lot, so she really needed to get away to a safe environment where she could spread her wings and get away from nagging parents,’ said Holly’s mum Julie.

‘She is achieving things at National Star that she would never be achieving back here. Our dream as parents is that she can be independent. The more experiences she can get, whether it’s work experience or life experience, the better equipped she will be in the future.’

Developing confidence and new skills at StarBistro

Now, thanks to her work placement at StarBistro, Holly loves meeting new people and is gaining the skills she needs for an independent life after college. Holly, 19, is in her first year at National Star. As part of her three–year Vocational Pathway in Customer Services she completes work–based placements at college and with organisations in Gloucestershire.

Holly spends two mornings a week at StarBistro, where she helps to prepare dishes in the kitchen, takes orders, serves food and operates the till.

The hands–on experience in a real workplace environment has meant that within just seven months Holly has been able to develop her self–esteem and gain some of the practical skills she will need for future employment.

‘It’s been good for my people skills, my life skills and my communication skills,’ said Holly. ‘This experience has really given me an insight into what kind of jobs I’d like to do.’

The StarBistro team has been working with Holly to help her manage her anxiety and feel more in control of her surroundings.

Learning new routines, focusing on serving one table at a time and speaking her tasks out loud has enabled Holly to flourish in her role.

‘It was about processing it all,’ said Dee Beresford, Front of House Mentor at StarBistro.

‘She has learned that she has to do these steps every time. She’s learned ways to remind herself. If she has a moment when she is worried, she will always come back to us and ask a question.’

To see first–hand how National Star supports young people like Holly, why not visit StarBistro for a morning coffee, lunch or afternoon tea? One such group was Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club, who held their annual club lunch at the bistro in Ullenwood.

Having the opportunity to interact with students who were taking orders and serving the food had a profound effect. The group’s members have pledged to return to StarBistro as regularly as they can in order to support the charity’s work, and they plan to attend a tour of the campus in future.

Through purchases of our 50th anniversary raffle tickets and donations, the group raised £166 for National Star on the day of their visit.

Personalised learning

Like all students at National Star, Holly has a personalised learning programme that is tailored to her aspirations, interests and needs. She has access to the college’s range of therapy and health programmes, including physiotherapyoccupational therapy and emotional wellbeing. As part of her programme Holly is studying towards a City & Guilds Certificate in Employability Skills and is developing functional skills in English, maths and communication.

The confidence and practical skills Holly has gained mean that she is hopeful for a future full of possibilities after college. She is considering a career as a receptionist, and she also loves to write.

‘I just want to be able to start my life,’ said Holly. ‘I want to have a job, be able to earn money for myself and live independently.’

Find out more

Find out more about National Star’s personalised learning programmes. You can also contact the Admissions team at or on 01242 534928.

Book your StarBistro table today to try our delicious food. You can also email or call 01242 535984.

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