At the age of five, an accident left Hezron Brown, 25, from Birmingham, physically branded by burns and psychologically scarred.
The names he was called in the playground saw him develop a defensive and violent anger problem. He was kicked out of two primary and secondary schools and, aged 14, he was thrown out of his home.
"I lived on the streets, I stayed with my sister, I was taken in by a friend’s mum, and then I was put into temporary accommodation. But it was hard. I felt like I was on my own. I was just a kid trying to find my way in life, and I was always running back and forth from the benefits office – I never had any money."
Somehow, Hezron juggled his teenage years and education with managing his own flat and all the bills that went with it. He even secured a place at college full of good intentions, but was drawn into gang life, comforted by the camaraderie it gave him.
"I knew gang culture was wrong and I got a criminal record, but I had been on my own so long, it was more like a family to me and I had no-one to steer me away. It wasn’t until a group of lads tried to stab me that I realised I needed to get out. I had to fight my way out that. I was very, very lucky."
Realising that a good education led to better job opportunities, Hezron enrolled at college, but got mixed up in gang issues. When he became a father, Hezron’s outlook changed. Determined to find meaningful work, Hezron was signposted to Get Started with Theatre, where he went out of his way to help others and was offered work at the end.
"It was a week-long programme at the REP Theatre in Birmingham. Just walking around the theatre was amazing. And at the end the associate director, Steve Ball, came in and said he saw potential in me and wanted to make me a registered actor at the theatre.
"To even get approached by someone like him was amazing and, because The Prince’s Trust put me in that situation, I wanted to give something back, so I asked if I could become a Young Ambassador."
Hoping to paint a picture for people about what life was like for young people on the other side of the street, Hezron trained to become a Young Ambassador and stood up at Prince’s Trust events to tell his story to young people and supporters. He even sat on a focus group for the Houses of Parliament –enjoying every minute of what he says was an ‘inspiring and eye-opening’ journey.
"And I know what I said helped other young people too because they came up to me afterwards to talk to me about it."
When Hezron became a Young Ambassador, everything began to fall into place. He performed at the REP Theatre and he was introduced to another Young Ambassador called Omar Sharif, who was so impressed by Hezron, he asked him if he would like to work with him at the National Citizen’s Service.
“I was working in a shop at the time, but I thought ‘ok, let me see what it has to offer’, so I went online to see what it did and now I work there helping 16 to 17-year-olds develop skills for their future through various activities and encourage them to make our society more culturally integrated.”
Hezron credits his involvement with The Prince’s Trust as ‘opening up a lot of doors’ and giving him and the chance to achieve. He firmly believes that its programmes can open doors for other young people who are struggling in life, just like he once was.