Celebrity Ambassador, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, shares her views on the importance of boosting confidence and morale in young people who have not received the exam results they'd hoped for.
I grew up in a tough area in Newcastle. I saw drug and alcohol abuse, crime and poverty. I also saw how the lack of role models meant that many of my friends felt they had nowhere to turn.
This week marks an incredible turning point for hundreds of thousands of young people who are waking up this week about to embark on a new chapter of their lives.
For those who did well with their GCSEs, or even managed to just scrape by, their world is about to change. Maybe they’re about to take up a place at college to study their chosen subjects, or maybe they have their dream job lined up.
In the middle of all the headlines announcing ‘record results’, we must not forget those who are waking up today, who didn’t get the results they so desperately wanted. These young people are also about to start a new chapter of their lives, but sadly, with it will come anxiety, uncertainty and in some cases even depression.
It’s so sad that one in ten young people here in the UK describe their childhood as “traumatic”. That’s a million kids which is absolutely heartbreaking.
I was lucky – I had role models around me who I could talk to when times were hard. That said, growing up wasn’t easy. We didn’t have much money and there were times when me and my brothers and sister would have to go without so we had food on the table. I remember desperately wanting a Barbie doll, but because they were so expensive, I ended up having an old one from a girl up the road. I was also used to wearing cast-offs from my big sister and another girl up the street.
However, my family supported my ambitions of singing and dancing. Me mam and dad worked extremely hard so I could attend local dance classes from the age of four. Without them realizing it they’d opened up a whole new world to me and for that, I am so, so grateful. They’ve made it possible for me to create an amazing life for myself, doing something I love every day.
Too many young people are growing up without this vital support. With no-one to turn to, many of these young people are battling issues such as long-term unemployment, addiction, homelessness and depression, alone. Life can seem harsh for these young people, and we need to help them before it is too late.
This year I launched my Cheryl’s Trust, which will support thousands of disadvantaged young people in turning their lives around.
I have chosen to partner with youth charity, The Prince’s Trust, and have committed to raise £2million to help the most vulnerable young people move into jobs, training or education. The Prince's Trust works with those who are unemployed, have no qualifications and sometimes even suffer with mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction. All too often, they already feel like they have failed at life.
I have been lucky enough to spend some time with these young people and have seen first-hand how crucial their support can be.
One is Emma Reilly, from Newcastle.
After suffering from undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome and bullying at school, Emma developed a social phobia; she had up to 15 panic attacks in a day if she had to interact with anyone. Finding or keeping a job was impossible. Her confidence and self-esteem went downhill and she faced several years of unemployment.
Some tragic news made her reassess her life and she became determined to start her own design company. With the help of The Prince’s Trust, Emma is now her own boss. Her business, Brave and the Bold Apparel, launched in January 2013 and Emma hasn’t looked back since. She has her own successful online shop and is increasing her t-shirt range. Emma has even begun to design watches. All of Emma’s clothing is organic and she creates all her own designs and illustrations.
It is stories such as Emma’s that prove that with a little support and guidance, young people can build the self belief and skills to get their lives on track.