New Chigwell School sixth form centre honours ‘beautiful’ pupil who died in road accident

PUBLISHED: 13:19 19 September 2016 | UPDATED: 17:32 19 September 2016

Old Chigwellian Ben Shephard, Headmaster Michael Punt, Dr Malvinder Sohi and family cut the ribbon to officially open The Risham Sarao Sixth Form Centre

Old Chigwellian Ben Shephard, Headmaster Michael Punt, Dr Malvinder Sohi and family cut the ribbon to officially open The Risham Sarao Sixth Form Centre

Chigwell School

A new sixth form centre named in memory of a former ‘inspiring’ Chigwell School pupil was officially opened this weekend by her family, friends and some familiar faces.

The Risham Sarao Sixth Form Centre was unveiled by her family and television presenter and old Chigwellian Ben Shephard.

Risham studied at the High Road school from the age of 11 until she left to study business and Spanish at Manchester University.

She died in a road traffic accident in 2009, whilst travelling in Peru, aged 21.

The opening of the centre, which features six classrooms, study and social space and a centre for careers and university advice, stirred up emotions for Risham’s family members.

Her uncle, Dr Malvinder Sohi, said it would keep Risham’s spirit alive.

He said: “It is a very emotional day for us, it’s sad but also a matter of great pride for us to be associated with such a brilliant child.”

“The only way to keep her name living is to create such a thing as the centre where we are going to create many Rishams by giving a wonderful environment.

“This centre will live probably many generations beyond those Risham would have thought she would have lived.

“The family’s loss and the school’s loss left an enormous vacuum. It became very important to replace that with something that would be permanent and beneficial for future generations.

“Risham was denied a beautiful life. In her name we had a duty to the future generations of the school to ensure that they can benefit from her life and aspirations.”

“The centre keeps Risham’s spirit alive so that it inspires and encourages the pupils.

“The centre will provide a place and opportunity to all those who want to achieve world class education in the most modern and natural environment and enhance those who are inspired by Risham’s life.”

Headmaster Michael Punt said the centre will become a hub for learning:

He said: “The sixth formers will be proud to be in here, they will want to come and hang out.”

“They will want to do their work here. They will want to see their other classmates here.

“They are going to be filled with a huge amount of pride and that’s something you can’t put a price on.”

Ben Shephard, who co-presents Good Morning Britain, said he was “absolutely blown away” by the new centre.

He said: “It’s just an extraordinary facility and I’m very jealous and envious.

“I was lucky enough to come to Chigwell and had an amazing time here but we have all been talking about how much we would have enjoyed the opportunity to be here, to work in this sort of environment and have the opportunity to take in the surroundings.

“It is a really, really fabulous tribute to Risham.”

Risham’s family are also planning to commission a bust of Risham to go in the new building, and will provide an award to be presented annually to an outstanding Sixth Form student.

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