On 17th November 2016, we celebrated in style at the Milton Court in Barbican, London for The Prince's Trust and TK Maxx & HomeSense Celebrate Success Awards.

Each young person who has been nominated for Celebrate Success has a unique story. Be inspired by our East of England Celebrate Success finalists. 

Young Achiever of the Year

The Young Achiever of the Year award, sponsored by TK Maxx and HomeSense, recognises the success of young people getting into employment, training or education and overcoming substantial barriers to transform their lives.

Winner: Nicola Staff

Nicola, 26, from Ruislip in Middlesex, was bullied at school and had a difficult upbringing with her parents at home. Without people recognising it she was suffering a breakdown, and because she was so unhappy she quit her Hospitality Management course, left home and ended up living in a tent for three months.

Three years later, at the age of 21, Nicola was diagnosed with lymphoma. She recovered, but suffered another breakdown. Her father helped her engage with The Prince’s Trust Fairbridge programme, which saw her confidence flourish.

She then went on the Get into Hospitality programme where she gained experience in a number of different departments. Nicola now works full-time in the Pastry Kitchen at Grosvenor House JW Marriott Hotel in Mayfair, London, and meets regularly with her Prince’s Trust Progression Mentor to continue to build her resilience.

Positive, stable and with a great support network around her, Nicola finally feels in control of her life. She has ambitions of travelling to France to train as a pastry chef.

Finalist: Jess Robinson

Jess at Celebrate Success

One rejection followed another, when Jess, 22, from Bracknell in Berkshire, was looking for work. She suffers with epilepsy and although she achieved well at school, her applications for jobs fell flat.

Frustrated by the constant knock-backs, Jess started partying and staying out late. She argued with her parents, left home and got tangled in a physically abusive relationship that saw her take drugs, shoplift and become so low, she started to self-harm.

When the relationship ended, Jess found sanctuary with a new partner and was referred to a supported accommodation project. She stopped taking drugs, reconnected with her family, and signed up to The Prince’s Trust Get into Logistics programme. Showing a steely determination and a positive attitude, Jess excelled on the programme and secured work with Waitrose. Six weeks later, she was invited to join its partnership.

Living independently and working in the chilled warehouse at Waitrose, Jess is now looking forward to the next stage of her life.

Finalist: Jade Daxx Potter

Jade at Celebrate Success

Jade, 17, from South West London, was diagnosed with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoia and anxiety aged just 14.

Feelings of hopelessness engulfed her and turned into anger. Before long, Jade was truanting, drinking all night and fighting. She also started to self-harm. Urged by her family, Jade joined The Prince’s Trust Team programme.

Jade’s attendance at school had been around 20 per cent, but on Team it was near-perfect. She was determined to beat her nerves and not only managed to travel independently, something she hadn’t had the courage to do for months, she contacted local businesses to ask for their support with her Team community project.

She enjoyed feeling part of a group, learned to trust her peers and to manage her feelings. Jade also completed a three-week work placement at the five-star Conrad London St James’s Hotel, an experience that culminated in a full-time job offer. She has recently been promoted to supervisor.

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Young Ambassador of the Year

The Young Ambassador of the Year award, sponsored by Mappin & Webb, recognises young people who are exceptional Young Ambassadors for The Trust. These young people volunteer their time to share their personal experiences and inspire others.

Winner: Umar Saeed

Umar with his award

Umar, 27, was born in Moss Side and raised in East London. Danger followed him wherever he went. He had a troubled childhood and growing up in a family environment of drug abuse, he rebelled and found himself taking drugs.

Persuaded by his probation officer, Umar joined Fairbridge where he achieved things he never thought possible. Get into the NHS came next, and it was there that Umar discovered a passion for working in care.

When the course ended, Umar was offered a job and then became a Young Ambassador. Painting a very real picture of his past, Umar became one of The Trust’s most requested Young Ambassadors and once earned a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

He currently works as a support worker for the elderly, is studying his Level 3 in Health and Social Care, volunteers at a homeless shelter, and has ambitions of becoming a social worker. His turnaround is nothing short of extraordinary.

Finalist: Khiry Pascal-Joseph

Khiry at Celebrate Success

Khiry, 24, from North London, was 10 when his mother became ill; she died that same year. Her death impacted on his behaviour at school, where he already struggled with learning difficulties and eventually he became depressed. His aunt supported him throughout this time.

He was unemployed for four years when one day he walked into The Prince’s Trust Hackney Centre, a place he said, “where young people come to succeed”.

He signed up to The Prince’s Trust Fairbridge programme and, through one-to-one support and a host of different activities, rebuilt his confidence. Two months later, he joined Get into Retail and managed to secure work with Tesco, before becoming a Young Ambassador.

Warm, willing, lively and engaging, Khiry has been an outstanding Young Ambassador, who has gone out of his way to support others and promote The Trust. He is now working as an apprentice at Tesco where he is gaining additional qualifications and support.

Finalist: Tara McGee

Tara Mcgee at Celebrate Success

Immobilised by depression, Tara, 23, from North London, started using drugs, but became so low she attempted suicide. Her start in life hadn’t been easy. She was sent to live in a safe house as a child and struggled at school with dyslexia.

Her third suicide attempt saw her placed in a crisis house, but it wasn’t until a friend committed suicide, that Tara realised she had to change her life.

An employment support group referred her to The Prince’s Trust Get Started with Fashion programme where she was inspired by the staff, grew in confidence and, for the first time in her life, felt hopeful. She began working with Zara when the programme ended, used a Development Award to cover her first month of travel, and then became a Young Ambassador.

Tara was, and remains, an exemplary advocate for The Trust. She sees her career supporting young people and plans to study her Working with Young People Level 3 Award.

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Enterprise Award

The Enterprise Award, sponsored by NatWest, recognises young people who have overcome barriers and achieved success in creating a sustainable business or a community or social enterprise.

Winner: Neil Coombs

Winner Neil Coombs at Celebrate Success

A troubled childhood saw Neil, 32, from Kent, move in with his grandparents to start a new life aged 13.

He settled in well and played for Crystal Palace under 16s before studying an HND in Sports Science; but when his grandparents passed away, he was left devastated and alone.

Telling himself not to let them down, Neil studied, got a job and set up his own business. But when things didn’t work out, he lost confidence and began battling with severe depression.

Eighteen months of unemployment followed, by which time Neil decided to revisit his old business idea, but with help from The Prince’s Trust. He completed the Enterprise programme and launched WiiCare - a personal care service that helps patients remain independent in their own homes.

Overcoming numerous hurdles along the way, Neil’s business is now in its fifth year of trading and is a resounding success, supporting more than 150 clients, including the NHS, Kent County Council and Medway Council.

Finalist: Leanne Lashley

Leanne at Celebrate Success

Struggling to cope with a series of events including coming out, a friend’s suicide and traumas from her past, Leanne, 26, from East London, started to suffer with severe depression and sought escape the only way she knew how – substance abuse. Drugs had been her crutch for a year but after one particularly hard weekend, she decided enough was enough.

She referred herself to counselling, wrote a stand-up comedy based on her experiences as an LGBT ethnic minority, and enrolled on The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme hoping to launch a comedy club.

With the help of a Prince’s Trust Will it Work grant and start-up loan, Leanne launched Miswits Comedy Club - an open mic night that showcases the talents of the LGBT community and donates its profits to fund workshops for vulnerable young people. The nights have proven so popular, Leanne now employs three part-time staff.

Leanne’s desire to help others is heartfelt, and as her business continues to grow, so too does her success story.

Finalist: Theo-Lee Houston

Theo-Lee Houston at Celebrate Success

Theo, 28, from East London, was 12, when his mother spontaneously packed their bags and took her family off to see the world. When they returned a few years later, Theo couldn’t reintegrate. He was violently bullied at school and quit in favour of being home-tutored.

He progressed to college and after trying his hand at different jobs, decided he wanted to bring fresh tea to the street food scene.

Prompted by his mother, he enrolled on to The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme, worked hard to secure a stall at Kerb, a popular London food market, and founded Teala using a £4,000 Trust loan.

Joining Enterprise was the best decision I’ve ever made and I now have a career I enjoy.

Theo now sells hot and iced teas at markets across London and employs 15 part-time staff. He has also worked behind the scenes at Kerb and mentors young traders. He is now a street food consultant and Manager of Maltby Street Market, which has led him to start his own street food consultancy.

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Rising Star Award

The Rising Star Award, sponsored by Delta Airlines, recognises young people who, despite having faced substantial personal obstacles, are in sustainable employment as a result of a Prince’s Trust programme.

Winner: Megan Crowley

Megan holding her award

No-one could hear her screams the night Megan, 17, from East London, was attacked. She was walking home from a party and was sexually assaulted by six strangers. The attack resulted in mental physical and emotional issues.

Megan had learned to hate herself when she was 10. She started using drink and drugs to escape her troubled life, and hated herself even more. She self-harmed, attempted suicide and was admitted to a mental health unit.

A relative suggested she enrolled at college, and it was there that she heard about The Prince’s Trust Team programme. Team empowered Megan. She quickly grew more confident, learned to trust people again, and performed so well during a work placement at an estate agency, she was offered an apprenticeship.

Megan has now found herself a job in the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster Bridge.

Finalist: Tyler Steward

Tyler at Celebrate Success

Bored of being labelled by his cystic fibrosis and tired of it restricting his life, Tyler, 20, from Southampton, needed direction. He’d spent his childhood going in and out of hospital, missing out on school and a social life. As his peers moved on, Tyler was left stuck and feeling isolated.

His nurse suggested he try The Prince’s Trust Fairbridge programme. Supported by his peers on the course, Tyler overcame his barriers and surprised himself at what he could achieve.

His programme executive encouraged him to join the Make Your Mark programme, delivered by Marks & Spencer, and although he found it tough, he impressed everyone involved.

Tyler’s determination has transformed his life. He is no longer scared of planning his future, and hopes to progress within Marks & Spencer and eventually become a section coordinator.

Finalist: Shannon Beecher

Shannon at Celebrate Sucess

Shannon, 18, from South East London, was adopted out of her family home at the age of six. Although she had contact with her birth parents, she felt unwanted and when her birth father died, she began self-harming and became more withdrawn.

Dyslexia plagued her chances to succeed academically and when she lost her circle of friends, she became more withdrawn again. Her adopted mother persuaded her to join The Prince’s Trust Fairbridge programme where she not only made friends and rebuilt her confidence, but was offered a placement teaching English at a kindergarten in Prague, which she successfully completed. Upon her return, Shannon joined Get Started with Music and later represented The Trust on the red carpet at the national Celebrate Success Awards.

Shannon has consistently given up her own time to give back to The Trust and has inspired many people with her story. She is now in a good place, has become a Young Ambassador and hopes to volunteer abroad as a marine conservationist.

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Community Impact Award

The Community Impact Award, sponsored by Dell EMC, recognises the positive contribution young people make to their local community.

Winner: TNG (The New Generation) Team 142

TNG (The Next Generation) Team 142 holding their award

When the young people of TNG Team 142 were briefed on the mental health services available at their college base, they were also told about a local branch of mental health charity MIND and felt an overwhelming desire to help.

Knowing that the services were a lifeline to many young people, they met with MIND and agreed to make a young people-focussed film about mental health.

Using £1,500 they had fundraised from local businesses, the team drew on their own mental health experiences to produce a gritty and empathetic film highlighting the impact mental health problems can cause and the importance of finding help. The film is now used by MIND at its young people sessions.

They also promoted the film through social media, presented it to local schools, pupil referral units and colleges, and established a mental health youth forum at Newham College. The remaining money was donated to MIND to fund the training of volunteers responsible for delivering mental health workshops.

Finalist: Sutton Team 34

Sutton Team 34

Mental health became a central theme for Team 34 who pooled their talents in an attempt to stop the stigma.

After talking with a number of mental health organisations to get a better understanding of the issues, they brainstormed their campaign slogan Stop The Stigma.

Focusing heavily on communication, they used the £700 they had fundraised to produce visual aids for schools and youth organisations that not only carried their slogan, but provided information about mental health and which organisations could help. They also created interactive games, gave presentations, ran stalls at schools encouraging pupils to share their personal stories, and were praised for helping young people speak up about mental health.

Captivating and inspiring others, the team not only improved key employability skills such as planning, budgeting and marketing, but they boosted their confidence and helped local young people in the process.

Finalist: CXK Team

CXK Team at Celebrate Success

CXK Team put homelessness at the top of their agenda when they decided to take on a meaningful project that would bring different social groups in their community together.

Feeling that greater understanding towards homelessness was needed, the team voted to hold an awareness day that would show a thought-provoking film outlining how people may find themselves without a home. They also wanted to buy food for the local food bank and create bespoke care packages filled with toiletries and packet food, which they could distribute to the local homeless community.

Unfazed by the amount of work involved, CXK Team raised enough money to create 100 care packages, spent a night sleeping rough, and wrote and produced a short film about sleeping on the streets.

Their awareness day was a resounding success. It saw local homeless people, residents, and local authority members come together and help to build a bridge across a cross section of their society.

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Breakthrough Award

The Breakthrough Award, sponsored by HSBC, recognises the progress of young people in overcoming barriers and developing new skills.

Winner: Michelle Brown

Michelle holding her award

Physically and sexually abused, Michelle, 23, from Southampton, suffered in silence, hating her life, and grew increasingly angry. She was suspended from school for fighting, stayed out late smoking cannabis and was regularly picked up by police for anti-social behaviour.

Then a series of incidents saw Michelle lose control, not caring whether she lived or died. She was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was signposted to The Prince’s Trust Get Started with Stewarding course.

Michelle made huge advancements socially and personally during the programme and earned her Level 2 Award in Understanding Stewarding at Spectator Events. But, it was a one-to-one forward planning session which helped her realise she wanted a career helping other young people.

Michelle now works as a steward at Southampton FC, volunteers with several youth organisations, and is also researching mental health amongst young people. In the future, she hopes to become a full-time youth worker.

Finalist: Chinny Brown

Chinyere at Celebrate Success

Chinny, 16, from New Cross in London, was bullied at school, and struggled to cope after her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour and her brother was brutally attacked. She was crippled with low self-esteem and mental health issues, grew argumentative and was often housebound by her anxiety.

Chinny’s mother persuaded her to join The Prince’s Trust Fairbridge programme, and although she needed coaxing on the first day, by the end of week one there was no stopping her. She led by example, attempting every new challenge, reassured others and commanded the attention of the group by making eye contact with everyone. After Fairbridge, Chinny completed Get Started with Film, attended a Trust-organised YouTube vlogging workshop and secured a work placement in Italy.

She is now on a path for a very bright future – one which will see her complete her GCSEs and follow her dreams of becoming a short form editor.

Finalist: Mohamed

Mohamed at Celebrate Success

Mohamed, 20, from Lisson Grove in London, had missed out on 11 years of education having grown up in war-torn Iraq, where both his dad and brother had sadly died. When he arrived at school in England, he was far behind his peers and worried how that would impact his future.

Not wanting to follow his friends down a path of crime and drugs, Mohamed sought help from Mosaic.

Mohamed slowly built up his self-esteem, completed a BTEC in Media and Business and secured work placements at Barclays and Mini Clip. He is already making a name for himself at gaming tournaments and on YouTube, where he has amassed 10,000 followers.

He credits mentoring as changing his outlook on life, and now has the confidence and skills to pursue a career in gaming and digital technology.

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Educational Achiever of the Year

The Educational Achiever of the Year award recognises young people who have overcome barriers, developed new skills and improved their education prospects.

Winner: Caitlin Buckley

Removed from lessons for her own safety and that of others, former A-grade student Caitlin, 18, from Southampton, saw her behaviour spiral so badly out of control, that the police were called into school on four separate occasions. She suffered with ADHD, dyslexia and mental health difficulties, and was once escorted from school grounds in restraints after suffering a breakdown.

She experienced panic attacks, was scared to leave the house without carrying a knife, used substances and self-harm as an escape, and attempted suicide several times.

The Prince’s Trust Fairbridge programme and Team programme helped Cait get her life back and she is now in a much happier and healthier place. She re-sat her GCSEs and is currently working part-time whilst studying at college. She is also training to be a lifeguard.

Finalist: Emma Handley

Emma Handley at Celebrate Success

Emma, 21, from Gillingham in Kent, was 13 when she became a young carer for her disabled nan, her severely autistic sister and her mother.

By 15 she was seeking solace in drugs and quickly became addicted. Stealing to fund her habit, she was charged, released on probation and placed into care. Life seemed to get better but four years later a series of tragic events saw Emma return home. Her nan passed away, her mother moved into specialist dementia care and Emma was on her own, homeless and struggling to come to terms with it all.

Craving some stability, Emma turned to her foster mother for help. She secured accommodation, connected with the Jobcentre Plus and signed up to The Prince’s Trust Fairbridge programme. She has also been involved with a project called Talent Match, which is an initiative funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

It was the stepping stone she needed. Pushing through her anxieties, Emma set herself goals, completed an army employability programme and is planning to study catering before considering a career in the army.

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