Putting our Trust in young Bristolians
A group of young Bristolians will receive awards at a special Prince's Trust ceremony today to pay tribute to their 'success against the odds'. David Clensy looks at their stories
IT'S not where you start, but where you finish. Or so the old adage goes.
It's certainly true that an individual's achievement in life should not be judged on their ultimate place, but on where their story began.
All too often, for those from backgrounds of social deprivation or family strife; those with debilitating medical conditions or fragile emotions, achieving seemingly ordinary goals can be a struggle.
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The Prince's Trust and Samsung Celebrate Success Awards, which is being held today at St George's, specifically honours the achievements of disadvantaged young people supported by the Trust who have succeeded against the odds – improved their chances in life and had a positive impact on their local community.
It honours youngsters like Jade Andrews. The 19-year-old, from Withywood, is nominated for the Samsung Young Achiever Award. This award recognises inspiring young people who have overcome barriers to transform their lives.
Feeling lost and angry, Jade was suffering from severe depression and misusing alcohol. She always had plans to be a police officer or work in security but her ambitions seemed unattainable.
Jade was forced to leave home just after her 16th birthday. She endured six months of homelessness before being given a self-contained flat. While attending college, she suffered further emotional stress when her brother faced a prison sentence and a close friend passed away.
After being thrown out of college for poor attendance, Jade's alcohol problems worsened.
But when she later heard about The Prince's Trust team programme, Jade signed up. The scheme helps young people increase their chances of employment by providing key workplace skills and confidence.
Jade's turning point came while taking part in a community project, as part of the course, where she became more confident in her own abilities.
Work experience at a security company cemented her progress and she began to make solid decisions about her future.
She has rebuilt relationships with her family and continues to work in security. Her dream now is to one day start her own security business.
"The Prince's Trust taught me I can work harder than I previously thought," Jade says. "They helped me to realise who I am and who I want to become."
Kirstie Porter, 21, of Kingswood, is nominated for the Clifton College Flying Start Award. This award recognises young people who have overcome barriers and are now in sustainable employment.
Working in a care home and looking after her disabled sister, Kirstie always thought her future was in the care industry. As the main income provider for her family, Kirstie also took responsibility for most of the domestic duties.
Suddenly made redundant, life became an even greater struggle. Seeing no way out of her situation, Kirstie's confidence declined rapidly.
After coming across The Prince's Trust team programme online, she got in touch and was accepted on to the course. The scheme gives young people the workplace skills and confidence they need to find employment.
After a talk given by the head of a security company towards the end of the programme, Kirstie was intrigued. Despite thinking a career in security was not for girls, she was eager to find out more.
After being offered a trial stewarding opportunity, Kirstie never looked back. Her potential was recognised and she went on to gain qualifications.
Kirstie feels she is finally in control of her life with more time to be her own person and achieve her goals. The 21-year-old currently works as a door supervisor around Bristol. In her spare time she carries out volunteer care work.
"The support I got from The Prince's Trust gave me a lot of confidence," says Kirstie. "Now I make time to see the friends I met on the course and I am much happier. I feel I have a bright future ahead."
Lara Simpson, 22, of Bristol city centre is also nominated for the Flying Start Award.
Lara had always dreamed of being an actor. She had studied performing arts and felt her future was on the stage.
However, Lara struggled after being fired from her job and could not secure new employment. She then left home due to family difficulties.
Shortly after moving into supported accommodation, she heard about The Prince's Trust Truth About Youth programme which got her involved in performing arts again at The Bristol Old Vic.
Truth About Youth is a national initiative run by the Co-operative Foundation aimed at challenging negative perceptions of young people, delivered in Bristol by The Prince's Trust.
Upon joining, Lara began to remember everything she loved about theatre and acting.
Discovering that other participants on the course were dealing with similar challenges, Lara was able to integrate well within the group and appreciate the value of teamwork.
Since completing the course, Lara has gone from strength to strength. As well as acting and performing, she has discovered a real talent for supporting others and helping to develop their skills.
Lara says: "Without support from The Prince's Trust I am sure I would still be depressed, not knowing how to achieve my ambitions.
"Now I know that with everything I have done, I can go even further."
Alice Hussey-Yeo, 19, of Redfield, is up for the American Express Breakthrough Award. This award recognises the progress of young people who have developed new skills to enable them to make positive steps on facing their challenges and stabilising their lives.
Alice was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome at the age of 13. She displays involuntary movements and sounds called tics. Due to her condition, Alice was a victim of bullies in school, who destroyed her self-confidence.
She received little support as she had been earmarked as a disruptive pupil, and people failed to understand that she was unable to control her impulsive outbursts.
Despite being bullied, Alice did manage to achieve some qualifications but her mental health deteriorated. Unable to leave the house, she developed a phobia of other people and stopped taking care of herself.
Alice was later diagnosed with OCD and depression. Her moods were unpredictable and she became a risk to herself.
Following a period of time spent as a day patient at a mental health unit, Alice was referred to The Prince's Trust Fairbridge programme, a personal development scheme combining one-to-one support and group activities.
Alice overcame many personal barriers, improving her self-esteem while providing support to others on the course. Alice believes the programme turned her life around.
Having never been employed, she diligently sought employment in the midst of the programme and secured casual work over Christmas at a department store.
After completing the course, Alice signed on to The Prince's Trust Truth About Youth programme providing an opportunity for Alice to showcase her talents as a performer – both acting and singing.
Alice now intends to provide support to victims of bullying. She wants to ensure they do not suffer in silence as she once did.
She says: "If it was not for The Prince's Trust I would probably be dead or on my way to an early grave. Before joining Fairbridge I had no hope for the future, now I am set up for a more positive way of life."
Kat Ball, 17, from Kingswood, is nominated for the University of West England Educational Achiever Award. This award recognises young people who have overcome barriers and developed new skills to improve their future prospects through re-engagement with education.
Kat had emotional issues while growing up which resulted in angry outbursts. Kat struggled to control her temper.
She was also being victimised by bullies at school which had crushed her self-esteem. Under severe stress she was refusing to attend school and began to self-harm.
With so many barriers and little hope of gaining qualifications, Kat thought her prospects were extremely poor.
However, everything changed for her when she was referred to The Prince's Trust Fairbridge programme, a personal development scheme combining one-to-one support and group activities.
Encouraged to reflect on how her behaviour affected others, she developed techniques to control her emotions. Kat also learned many new practical and creative skills while acquiring numerous awards and certificates.
As her confidence increased, so did her self-esteem. She was able to speak comfortably in front of large groups and served on a panel interviewing new staff applications.
She is currently stage managing and organising events at Bristol's new youth centre, The Station, in Silver Street, and has a strong involvement with Youth 4 Youth at The Creative Youth Network.
She is currently at college and working towards a diploma in health and social care.
Kat says: "I have had an amazing experience and the support and encouragement I received from the Fairbridge team at The Prince's Trust has enabled me to believe in myself for the first time in years. I look forward to helping other young people in similar situations."
Roisin Maguire, 17, from Southmead, is also nominated for the University of West England Educational Achiever Award.
Roisin comes from a single parent family that is part of a travelling community. It has always been difficult for her to gain access to opportunities that others might take for granted.
She was bullied in school and her poor attendance rate meant Roisin had low levels of literacy. With little self-esteem, she developed anger management issues and displayed aggressive behaviour. Her family relationships also suffered.
She was at first reluctant to join The Prince's Trust Fairbridge programme, a personal development course individually tailored to the needs of young people.
However, Roisin soon began to experience positive changes while taking part in the programme. She enjoyed the adventurous activities and especially liked climbing.
Exposed to a diverse mix of people, she began to make new friends and develop positive relationships. Roisin excelled on an employability week with a hotel chain.
She is currently focussed on obtaining a place to study art at the City of Bristol College.
Roisin says: "The Fairbridge course really challenged me. It introduced me to new experiences and new people."
Darren Thompson, 24, of Easton-in-Gordano, is nominated for the Smith & Williamson Young Ambassador Award. This award recognises young people who are inspiring others through their personal experience of turning their lives around.
After the recession left Darren struggling to find work, he signed up for The Prince's Trust's Truth About Youth course, run in partnership with the Co-operative Foundation.
He later became a Prince's Trust Young Ambassador.
Taking full advantage of the training offered, Darren developed considerably in his time as a "Young Ambassador".
"I believe the training and events I attended were massively helpful in building my character," he says.
"They have strengthened my prospects as an employee and as an individual in general."