It is hard to think of a teenager who is more of a role model than Ipswich's Roma Manteiga Nicholson.

With a mission to be a singer like her hero Ed Sheeran, the 15-year-old has already had an astonishing level of success - releasing her own album and performing at hundreds of gigs.

The Northgate High School student's achievements are even more impressive, considering she overcame bullying at a previous school, as well as mental health problems.

Her "inspirational and meaningful" music tells the story of her troubles and gives other young people hope that they can beat whatever life throws at them.

Yet that is not all - in a "selfless act of human kindness", she has given £17,500 raised from her music to local charities, such as Ipswich Winter Night Shelter.

To her teachers at Northgate, she is a "massive role model" to other girls her age who has "shown such strength and character when going through her own battles".

One said: "For a young person, Roma has so much compassion for others and always goes above and beyond."

However, Roma says she just wants to help young people through their challenges - and said of her fundraising: "I'm really happy to see people smile when they are given their donations."

Roma, who has been nominated by Northgate for a Suffolk HOPE Award in light of her community work, said: "I've dealt with a lot of mental health issues myself, so I decided I was going to fundraise for it because I wanted to support other young people through it.

"I've spoken a lot about mental health and aim to be very open about it.

"It does get addressed in schools, but I think some give more support than others. The help I've had at Northgate has been great.

"I do feel like schools need to address mental health."

Ipswich Star: Roma singing at Ipswich Music Day in 2018Roma singing at Ipswich Music Day in 2018 (Image: Chris Silvester)

Inspired by Ed

Roma said it was Framlingham-raised Sheeran himself who inspired her shrug off the bullies and launch her own bid for musical stardom.

“He was bullied and so was I," she said.

“He proved them all wrong stood up and just brushed them off."

She began writing music when she was just nine years old - and her talent quickly became clear for all to see.

Soon, she was performing in the West End, taking on the role of young Fiona in Shrek the musical.

Ipswich Star: Roma with her album, Teen SpiritRoma with her album, Teen Spirit (Image: Chris Silvester)

She launched her own album, Teen Spirit, when she was just 13 - by which time she was performing at 10 gigs a month, on top of her schoolwork.

She even penned a track called Stronger as a response to those who bullied her, which she said was "all about just saying ‘whatever’ to those kinds of people and shrugging them off”.

Ipswich Star: Roma's album has been sold in major music storesRoma's album has been sold in major music stores

Her own video cover of Castle on the Hill was also viewed 41,000 times in two days online.

Yet rather than seek stardom for its own sake, Roma has decided to give the money she makes from album sales and her music career to charity.

Ipswich Star: Roma donating money to Ipswich Winter Night ShelterRoma donating money to Ipswich Winter Night Shelter

“I love the sound of money hitting the donation tin when I’m performing, because I know that people are getting helped," she said.

Ipswich Star: Roma donating more than £2,000 to Suffolk Young People's Health Project (4YP)Roma donating more than £2,000 to Suffolk Young People's Health Project (4YP)

“It doesn’t matter where I go in the future, I did something now that helped.

Ipswich Star: Roma donates funds to East Anglia's Children's HospicesRoma donates funds to East Anglia's Children's Hospices

“That’s my main dream: for people to be helped. I don’t think I could ask for anything more.”

Ipswich Star: Roma has already performed at hundreds of gigsRoma has already performed at hundreds of gigs (Image: Archant)

Bright future

Roma said being in lockdown over the past has "personally been quite a struggle, especially with not being able to perform".

She added: "I tried some livestreams but I wasn't getting the same buzz - I need to know the audience are reacting.

Ipswich Star: Roma enjoys performing in front of a live audienceRoma enjoys performing in front of a live audience (Image: Archant)

"I miss my audience. I miss the connection with them."

But she has continued to move closer to her dream, writing more than 100 songs during the pandemic.

She has also been offered a place at the vocal performance and production course at Access Creative College - where Ed himself studied as a teenager and is now a patron.

She hopes it will give her the "skills and techniques in production to record my own songs" - and feels like she is following in her idol's footsteps.

And whatever the future holds for Roma, it is clear she will continue to do what she loves - singing, raising money for good causes and helping others.

Ipswich Star: Roma Nicholson is following in Ed Sheeran's footsteps by studying at Access Creative CollegeRoma Nicholson is following in Ed Sheeran's footsteps by studying at Access Creative College (Image: CHARLOTTE BOND)

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