A FORMER soldier who now studies at Bradford College has received a prestigious award for going "above and beyond".

Benjie Kusita, who studies Media Make-up with Special Effects was named Higher Education Student of the Year by the Association of Colleges (AoC) at a special event in Birmingham.

The award recognised "outstanding and exceptional students" who have studied a higher education programme at a college.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: One of Benjie's creations One of Benjie's creations

"At Bradford College we are very proud of Benjie’s achievements, she emulates and represents how to overcome adversity by sheer determination and a passion to work within the creative industries," said the college.

“I didn’t expect to get this award," said Benjie, 36, from Dewsbury.

"I felt so shocked and proud when my name was announced."

It came after she was nominated for the award by her proud tutor Lisa Dawkins, who said: “She goes above and beyond what’s expected and she is such an amazing student and person.”

Her amazing creations have also been recognised at a number of competitions.

Last months, Benjie competed at The Prosthetics Event in Coventry - a highly-regarded forum for professionals in the special effects and prosthetics industry.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Benjie at The Prosthetics Event, CoventryBenjie at The Prosthetics Event, Coventry

A student competing against professionals in the field, Benjie received lots of comments from judges and fellow competitors who said they loved her work.

It’s a long way from the army, where Benjie toured Afghanistan and Cyprus among other countries.

She said: “When I was in the army, we had to do a lot of dirty things – running with the muck with 25kg in my bag, with a rifle.

"And I had to do exercise all the time.

"But for this media make-up job…sometimes it’s the same job, the make-up artist isn’t always working on the red carpet."

Her tutor said: “I nominated her as she has always stood out to me.

“The extra miles she went to, the things she had going on outside of college - which really made her want to try harder – made me and her other tutors realise how hard she wanted to work while she was here and how much it meant to her to sacrifice a lot of things to do this degree."

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: One of Benjie's creationsOne of Benjie's creations

She added: “Benjie is, for me, a wonderful human being and I always feel really emotional when I talk about her, because, to me, she’s a very special student.

“She not only looks after a child as well as working, she has her own business and also supports her mum who has a Thai therapy massage business.”

Benjie has competed in various competitions and in Summer 2018, submitted an entry to Brush Wars in London.

Despite being unable to attend the competition, her work was highly commended by the judges and was showcased on the organisation’s social media. This led to compliments from famous television and film make-up figures including Mandy Gold and Julia Townsend.