On 1st November 2016, we celebrated in style at the Titanic Belfast in Northern Ireland for The Prince's Trust and TK Maxx & HomeSense Celebrate Success Awards. The awards reception, hospitality and entertainment was kindly sponsored by Titanic Quarter Limited.     

Each young person who has been nominated for Celebrate Success has a unique story. Be inspired by our Northern Ireland 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: Ryan Morris

Bullied for being small and expelled from school for attacking another student, Ryan 23, from Dunmurry, drank, took drugs and was often in trouble with police. He became addicted to anti-depressants after his uncle’s suicide, began dealing and started receiving death threats. 

When he realised he was making his mother ill, he stopped. He got fit, bought a one-way ticket to Paris and signed up to the Foreign Legion. But after dislocating his knee during training, he was sent home. 

A friend signposted him to The Prince’s Trust which led him to participate in Get Started with Outdoor Activities and then Team. Shortly after Team, Ryan lost another family member to suicide, and was seriously injured in a vicious gang attack that left his friend dead. Mentally broken, Ryan went to his only refuge – the Team programme.

He has since become an inspirational Young Ambassador for The Trust.

Finalist: Caolin Kavanagh

Swamped by fear and feelings of worthlessness, Caolin, 23, from Derry/Londonderry, was having trouble at home and was being taunted by bullies at school, which was taking its toll. Caolin developed a sleeping disorder, was diagnosed with both ADHD and epilepsy and struggled to keep up with his schoolwork. He felt useless, stupid and hated, which left him contemplating suicide.

A family member directed Caolin to The Prince’s Trust. He felt like this was his last hope, so he got in touch and joined Team. Team’s non-judgemental environment allowed Caolin to find his feet. He made friends, embraced the challenges and then gained hands-on experience and qualifications in an industry that he loves, through the Get into Hospitality programme. 

In a better place mentally and emotionally, Caolin is studying his Level 2 qualification in hospitality whilst working part time in the industry. He is well on his way to a very bright future.

Finalist: Nikki Redfern

Nikki, 25, from Belfast, has dyslexia and left school with no qualifications after she became pregnant at 15. After the birth of her daughter, she isolated herself from friends as she tried to be the best mum she could be. Insecure, and wishing she had qualifications to work and support her daughter, Nikki started suffering from depression; money problems were mounting and she didn’t know how to put things right. 

She came across Make Your Mark online and successfully applied. Always punctual and a positive character, Nikki went out of her way to help customers and she became an integral part of the group. Her enthusiasm was infectious. Staff on the shop floor loved her, and programme peers looked to her for support. 

Nikki is now a full time employee at Marks & Spencer, pinching herself every day because she can’t believe how much her life has changed; she is happy, she has prospects and a better future; a future which Nikki and her daughter can both enjoy.

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Young Ambassador of the Year

The Young Ambassador of the Year award, sponsored by Belfast City Council, 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: John Devlin

Drugs, gangs and crime were simply a way of life for John, 23, from Belfast. One bad choice followed another; he was hounded by gangsters, in trouble with the police and felt trapped in a life he no longer wanted. 

The threat of prison, and the suicide of a close friend, made John realise he had to make a change, and he decided to sign up to the Team programme. His work on Team spared him a prison sentence and gave him a new lease of life, until he was rocked by the suicide of another close friend, and temporarily relapsed.

Community service work in a local youth centre made him realise he wanted a career as a youth worker. He gained his OCN Level 2 in Youth Work and became a Young Ambassador, inspiring hundreds of young people and executives with his story. He is now working for The Prince’s Trust as a Job Ambassador and continues to develop his career helping young people.

Finalist: Michelle Hagan

A horse riding accident left Michelle, 25, from Belfast, with a complicated shoulder injury and unable to complete the final year of her law degree. She hoped to return but when her mother was diagnosed with Leukaemia, Michelle became her sister’s legal guardian, which further stifled any hope of completing her studies. 

A diagnosis of depression prompted Michelle to try to regain control in her life. She knew she would struggle to find work because of her injury, so signed up for the Enterprise programme and established Headcollarz, a horse head collar customisation service. 

With her business up and running and her mother in remission, Michelle felt she had her life back and thanked The Trust for its support by becoming a Young Ambassador. She spoke at more than 50 events about her story and realised she wanted to help young people. 

After a year working full time as a Job Ambassador, Michelle is now working for an international law firm and hopes to continue volunteering for The Trust. 

Finalist: Ryan Morris

Bullied for being small and expelled from school for attacking another student, Ryan, 23 from Dunmurry, drank, took drugs and was often in trouble with police. He became addicted to anti-depressants after his uncle’s suicide, began dealing and started receiving death threats. 

When he realised he was making his mother ill, he stopped. He got fit, bought a one-way ticket to Paris and signed up to the Foreign Legion. But after dislocating his knee during training, he was sent home. 

A friend signposted him to The Prince’s Trust which led him to participate in Get Started with Outdoor Activities and then Team. Shortly after Team, Ryan lost another family member to suicide, and was seriously injured in a vicious gang attack that left his friend dead. Mentally broken, Ryan went to his only refuge – The Prince’s Trust – who helped him through it.

He has since become an inspirational Young Ambassador for The Trust.

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Enterprise Award

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

Winner: Marianne Blaney

Marianne, 30, originally from Nottingham, moved to Bushmills in 2012 seeking a fresh start. It had been a troublesome two years; having to deal with the death of her best friend, the loss of her job, and a traumatic car accident over such a short period of time had had a serious impact on her mental health.  She was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The move helped Marianne settle, but she was struggling to secure work in the local area and started considering self-employment. She then contacted The Prince’s Trust to sign up to the Enterprise programme, she went in with hopes to start a plus-size bridal boutique, but her market research would send her down a different path; into vintage fashion.

Together with a Prince’s Trust loan and business mentor, Marianne launched Daisy Mae Boutique; and despite never having worked in retail before, she smashed her original projections, employs two part time staff and plans to open a second store. 

Finalist: Daniel Kelly

Daniel, 30, from Cookstown, had worked as a plasterer but a hit and run incident left him with memory loss and a number of serious injuries. He was no longer fit to work in the trade and didn’t know where to turn. 

Part of his rehabilitation involved sessions with a personal trainer, who suggested Daniel considered personal training as a career. Inspired, Daniel joined the Enterprise programme and set up Revolution Fitness and Recovery, a fully equipped gym that offers space for training, classes, and personal training sessions. 

He qualified as a personal trainer and a strength and conditioning coach, and his gym managed to turn over a profit of £30,000 in the first year; almost three times what he had projected. He now has more than 300 clients on his books, four self-employed personal trainers and two work experience students. 

He has recently launched a gym outfitting business, R-Two, and hopes to open gyms across Northern Ireland. 

Finalist: William Rainey

Physically limited by ME and Crohn’s Disease, William, 22, from Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, has always struggled with low energy. Despite additional issues with dyslexia, he worked hard to successfully complete his GCSEs and a BTEC Qualification, but soon after he began suffering with depression, leading to an attempted suicide.

William would sometimes help his father, who worked at a local auction house, and when it closed down he was struck with his own business idea.
William signed up for the Enterprise programme. He used a ‘Will it Work’ grant to test out his idea,  before opening Keepsake, a second hand furniture shop

He now works closely with government agencies to help others in the local community, is lending a hand to a Prince’s Trust supported artist and has recently relocated to premises five times the size of his original shop. William plans to rent out space to four other businesses and create a mini “enterprise hub”, before launching a second store.

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Rising Star Award

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

Winner: Ryan Lennon

Ryan, 22 from Portstewart, was plagued by anger issues. He spent much of his childhood in care and, following the death of his best friend, constantly got into fights. He left school before sitting his GCSEs, sought escape in drugs and self-harm, and was later diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. 

Encouraged by his local church, Ryan joined Team. Enthusiastic and eager to engage, he bonded well with the group and was offered a job following a successful work placement in a hotel. But it was the community aspects of Team that struck him the most. 

Clean, motivated and positive about life, Ryan now works full time in the catering industry and has recently married and become a father. He is involved with his church, volunteers at a drop-in centre at weekends, and is studying youth work. He sees his future helping young people. 

Finalist: Denis Kelly

Denis, from Belfast, left school with no qualifications and became a father at an early age. Determined to provide financially for his son, he secured an apprenticeship as a baker, but in an area he knew could be dangerous if they knew his religion. Shortly after he started, Denis was left fearing for his life as he was attacked by eight masked men.

Too scared to return to work, Denis isolated himself and sank into a depression. 

A friend suggested he join the Get into Security programme. Although he struggled with the theory, he flourished in the team working activities and pushed himself to separate his past from his present; so he could get along with other members of the group. At the end of the programme he was offered a job with Eventsec.

Positive about life and working full time in security, Denis has a stable income and enjoys spending his free time with his son.

Finalist: Nikki Redfern

Nikki, 25, from Belfast, has dyslexia and left school with no qualifications after she became pregnant at 15. After the birth of her daughter, she isolated herself from friends as she tried to be the best mum she could be. Insecure, and wishing she had qualifications to work and support her daughter, Nikki started suffering from depression; money problems were mounting and she didn’t know how to put things right. 

She came across The Prince’s Trust and Marks & Spencer Make Your Mark programme online and successfully applied. Always punctual and a positive character, Nikki went out of her way to help customers and she became an integral part of the group. Her enthusiasm was infectious. Staff on the shop floor loved her, and programme peers looked to her for support. 

Nikki is now a full time employee at Marks & Spencer, pinching herself every day because she can’t believe how much her life has changed; she is happy, she has prospects and a better future for herself and her daughter.

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Community Impact Award

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

Winner: Sacred Heart College, Omagh

Residents in Omagh received unexpected support from Year 12 pupils from the Sacred Heart College xl group, when they stepped in to whitewash explicit graffiti that had been painted on a wall near the Omagh Bomb Memorial by vandals. 

The young people had been asking around for community project ideas and, after learning that Omagh’s residents couldn’t afford to remove the graffiti, they unanimously agreed to help.

They secured donations in paintbrushes, scrapers, tubs of paint, rollers and paint trays from Homebase and whitewashed the wall in just two days. Their efforts caught the attention of local media - receiving air time on the radio and making headlines in the local newspaper - and were praised by locals, who presented the group with a thank you card and plenty of praise.

The teamwork they demonstrated, the skills they developed, and the confidence and sense of pride they gained will stay with them forever. 

Finalist: Turning Point – Antrim Community Project

Empathy united 18 young people, aged 16-24, from Co. Antrim, when they transformed a building for Turning Point, a local charity that supports people who self harm and have suicidal thoughts.

Moved by Turning Point’s work, they put their budgeting, team building and communication skills to the test, and not only fundraised to buy tools and materials, but co-ordinated external suppliers - including electricians, carpet fitters and sign makers - to complete essential repairs they were unable to carry out themselves. 

Unfazed by the volume of work this project required, the team laboured for two weeks, often giving up their weekends and evenings, to strip, clear, clean and paint Turning Point’s office, kitchen, cloakroom, three toilets, common area and external facades. They even painted a mural in the common room and designed new outdoor signage.

Motivated and inspired by what they achieved, the group have now moved on into training, further education or employment.

Finalist: Team 3 – Lurgan Community Project

Ten young people aged 17-22 from Lurgan, Co. Armagh, from various walks of life, put their differences to one side to give a primary school in Portadown a colourful facelift. 

Not satisfied with simply painting a summerhouse for use as an outdoor learning facility, they put together a proposal to undertake more extensive renovation work on the school’s buildings and in its playground.

Timetabling and assigning each task, they showed mutual respect and energy throughout, encouraged and supported each other, and made sure that everyone, regardless of their ability, played a part.

Within just two weeks, they had painted the summerhouse, three storage containers, 10 metres of fencing and cleaned external chalk boards. The work was of such a high standard, other local schools began making contact asking for help, prompting the group to devise a ‘Dragons Den’ style pitching procedure for future teams to follow. 

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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: Gearoidin Barr

Struggling to cope with the loss of her father, Gearoidin, 23, from Belfast, ‎became anxious and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder when she was just 14.  

Then her mind began playing tricks on her; she started having panic attacks, became paranoid and was convinced that everyone was lying and that her father was still alive.

Concerns for her mental health escalated; doctors advised that she was pulled out of school aged 15, and she failed her GCSEs. Haunted by feelings of worthlessness, Gearoidin didn't leave the house for a year.

Supported by her family and adult support services, Gearoidin joined Team. Despite initial feelings of awkwardness, Gearoidin persevered and found that the more she pushed herself‎, the more she trusted and felt part of the group. She was praised for her attitude and work ethic and successfully applied for a Level 2 BTec in Childcare.

Now Gearoidin has found her‎ feet and is up and running towards even greater successes. 

Finalist: Shannon Robinson

Homeless at 17, and experiencing panic attacks and depression, Shannon didn’t know which way to turn.

She had struggled with education. Shannon failed a number of key GCSEs, including Maths and English, and wasn’t diagnosed as dyslexic until she was 17. Two years later, life was getting progressively worse. She was forced to leave college, and was diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality traits. 

Shannon, 20, from Ballynahinch, started living in supported accommodation and was advised to join Fairbridge. Keen to take control of her life, she agreed to sign up, and worked hard on improving her communication and employability skills. 

Empowered by her achievements and growing more resilient by the day, Shannon decided to focus on making a career for herself in nails and beauty, and gained Development Awards to cover the costs of her kit, text books, and Maths GCSE evening classes. 

Shannon is now stable, happy and on track for a promising future.

Finalist: Sharelle McDowell

Scared and confused, Sharelle, 23, from Limavady, Co. Derry, was moved into care and separated from her six siblings when she was six years-old.

All she ever wanted was to fit in, but she was labelled the “foster kid” at school; she was bullied and underachieved. Sharelle left school with few friends and little motivation, and although she signed up for courses, she often chose to stay out all night drinking, instead of studying.

A family member talked to her about The Prince’s Trust, prompting Sharelle to attend a taster day for the ‘Make your Mark’ programme with M&S.  Simply being offered a place on the course was enough for her motivation to return. 

Simply being offered a place on the course was enough for Sharelle’s motivation to return. Feeling safe and supported, she overcame many of her social insecurities, including travelling on her own and meeting new people.

She secured a temporary role at Marks & Spencer and hopes to work in the beauty industry.

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Educational Achiever of the Year 

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

Winner: Shannon Connor

Shannon, 17, from Newcastle, Co. Down had an unsettled home life and it was having an impact on her school life. She had a fear of failure, and as a result, she was regularly disruptive at school, and spent her free time mixing with troubled young people.  

Eventually Shannon was referred to the Achieve programme, which gave her the opportunity she needed to flourish; with its informal learning environment, a nice balance of study and group activities, it helped Shannon to feel part of a group. 

For the first time in years, Shannon made solid friendships with her peers instead of seeking out trouble with them. Her schoolwork improved, and relationships at home and at school, became easier. 

Shannon is currently taking part in a Level 2 Equine Studies course in Enniskillen, following her dream of working with horses.

Finalist: Paul Laverty

Paul, 16, from Larne, experienced a difficult childhood and low academic attainment followed. He was committed to working hard but feared he would never get anywhere in life.

Teachers suggested he try the Achieve programme, and he excelled from day one. 

Kind and considerate, it was Paul who would support and motivate the other students. He took control of fundraisers without being asked and took it upon himself to raise money for, and single-handedly paint, his school’s former youth club; after they pledged its use for The Prince’s Trust programme.

His positive work ethic earned him a job offer during a work placement, a school prefect’s badge, and the Rotary Club’s title of Young Citizen of the Year. 

Paul is now studying joinery at college and making the first big steps towards his career.

Finalist: Lisa-Jayne Weir

A young, single mother to two children, Lisa-Jayne, 21, from Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, had put all her energy into raising her kids, but found she was struggling to look after herself. Her self-confidence was low, and she was spending most of her time in her flat. 

A friend suggested she try Fairbridge, so decided to give it a go. Fairbridge helped Lisa-Jayne rediscover who she was, with her confidence soaring from day one. She quickly adopted a mentoring role towards others on the programme; not only did she go out of her way to make newcomers feel welcome, she also was very good at challenging negative behaviours in a positive manner. 

Lisa-Jayne completed the Fairbridge programme having earned an Entry Level 3 Award in Personal Development and Employability Skills and left feeling strong enough to change her situation at home and regain control of her life. Lisa-Jayne has completed further qualifications in English and Maths, and has started an Access to University course in Psychology and Sociology.

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