joseph karemera
Student STAR

So I came to this country four years ago to join my family who were refugees at the time.

My parents had to make tough decisions to leave me in Uganda (where I lived with my aunt prior to coming to UK) after they fled the after math of the Rwandese genocide.  I did not understand at the time why they did this but I was too young anyway (5years old), year 2000.

2014, 18years, I arrive in Uk and this is the first time I see my parents since they had left me. We couldn’t even recognise each other.

Growing up without my parents but knowing they existed was mind torturing. Going through this made me question a lot of things in life and as a result, I started doing things differently to my peers at school.

I was a loner most of my school days and when I came over, I felt even more lonely as I couldn’t connect with my family. I was not comfortable living with my parents and there was no good reason why apart from the fact that I had not seen them for a long time and living together was ‘weirdly weird’ to me so I decided to leave home and found somewhere else to live by myself.

My life was always filled with pain, and I had no one to run to. Around A level results time I collect my results, and they were shocking, this got me even more devastated. A friend of mine whose results were not appealing either, walked me to Waterstones and right up to the self-help section, I bought three books which he recommended, “The power of positive thinking-by Paul Vincent, Rich dad Poor dad-by Robert Kiyosaki and Awaken the Giant with in – by Tony Robbins.”

I started reading these books and this where I got my inspiration from, I thought about all the people who were in worse off situations than I did, so I started to appreciate who I was, what I had and who I could become.

My perspective changed and I related to everyone who was going through some sort of chronic pain. I decided to do things that will help those people, I started being part of the solution rather than the problem. So I started running for charities to raise awareness for their cause, I started with a 10k run for Birmingham Children’s hospital, then the following year I Stepped it up to half a marathon for Cure leukaemia, still in Birmingham but this race was humbling as I got severe knee pain at the beginning of it but I kept going because I was so committed to the cause.  I had to rest my knees for the next one year also and when I felt they had recovered a bit, I signed up to the Bournemouth Marathon Festival where I ran for Cancer Research Uk and also fund raised £100 for the charity.

What motivates me more than anything, is making a difference to individuals’ lives as well as mine.

In terms of my academics, I have always worked hard although in the past, I had to work even extra harder because my brain was always in a different place destructed by my own thoughts of my family why my life was the way it was (undiagnosed poor mental health). But like I said, this is behind me now, although with mental health issues it can be hard to completely get out of your head, never the less, I studied hard and I got a first in my first year (80% weighted average) and now I’m continuing to do my best as far as my degree is concerned. Currently I am applying for placements to gain experience and improve my job prospects after I graduate but ultimately, the goal is to work for myself.

The reason why I chose to become a PAL leader, was to combat my social anxiety, but I also I felt that I had a lot to share from my experiences that would benefit younger students and probably motivate them to come out of their comfort zones.

There’s a lot more I could share with you but time cannot allow us. In conclusion, I was just a normal teenager who wanted to enjoy life and be like others but clearly did not happen and I guess it was for a good reason. I don’t think I would have run marathons, raised money for charities and also became a PAL leader if my life had turned to be what I had wished it to be.

My path has been different and so is my life, but I it has turned out to be a blessing for others and myself. So my message is, whatever path you happen to have taken, look for the blessing in that path, because it is there. Trust!


That is part of the story of my life and I will leave you with my favourite quote, ‘’The obstacle is the way.’’


I have just completed my undergraduate degree in psychology achieving a first class honours which has propelled me into my job at Dorset Eating Disorder service and into a Masters in Clinical and Developmental Neuropsychology.  I guess the main question is what has lead me to where I am now. To answer this I’ll explain the past few years of my life through a journey-which is exactly what it has been. Before walking through the university gates on my first day, I’d had struggled with my fair share of mental health problems having been poorly with an Eating Disorder which has been very all consuming especially of my teenage years. As I walked through those gates, I was happy that I managed to get to University and was appreciative of being able to ‘live’. This spurred my determination and motivation to pace myself down the arduous path that University life had in store. Along this path, I no doubt struggled to manage. Alongside learning to look after myself properly where I was seeking treatment, I decided to jump at every opportunity given to me along the way, working as a PAL leader at University, working part time as a health care assistant, while concurrently volunteering with Samaritans during my second year. In terms of future directions I wasn’t sure what where I wanted to go until third year. Having had a difficult summer and seeking support from the Eating Disorder service, I went into my third year very unclear and clouded. It wasn’t till I started my dissertation, which was around Eating Disorders did I have some inclination about what I wanted to do next. I loved research, I’m enthralled with learning and being at the forefront of some very interesting work, so I knew then that the next route of my life will be in research and with my interest and drive to understand more about Eating Disorders it made sense for me to jump at the chance to do research with the Eating Disorder service as my first job as a graduate. Through this job I’ve been able to attend research consortiums and work on research projects that will hopeful be published, which is very exciting. The job is only part-time and my love for learning drew me back to a path down further education to study for my masters (which I thought would be a good idea to study full-time!). I’ve also loved studying neuropsychology at undergraduate level and this masters is giving me exciting opportunities to conduct research into mediators of autism and eating disorder symptomology and increase my knowledge into various cognitive and clinical conditions. I have also volunteered to help the University which included travelling to Hull to help out at the British Science Festival this September. I still have difficulties, suffering with unrelated poor physical health that makes studying at times very difficult. Yet, standing where I am now, I can reflect and say that I have pushed myself, nothing will hold me back and I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I’m also looking forward and hopefully next steps will involve working towards a PhD and a fruitful career in research. 


After finishing my A-Levels and not having anywhere near the requirements to go to university, much less to follow my dream of becoming a midwife, I enrolled at a college an hour’s journey away at the suggestion of my Spanish tutor. I finished my BTEC Level 3 in Health and Social Care with full marks (D*D*D*) and felt that things were finally on track!
I applied to midwifery and received five invitations to interviews, attended four interviews and declined another, declining one interview partway through after listening to my gut and deciding the university wasn’t for me. 

I received offers for all the universities I interviewed for I was left with the choice of deciding between King’s College London, Brighton, and Bournemouth.
I knew deep down that as a Dorset Lass from Lyme Regis I wasn’t going to cope away from the seaside, much less in London! I accepted the offer from Bournemouth excitedly and moved the furthest away from my home town I had ever lived (a whole 60 miles!). I was incredibly fortunate to receive an academic excellence scholarship from The Helena Kennedy Foundation, which eased the financial undertaking of the course, and felt everything was falling into place for me.

During my first year at university I tentatively got involved with the Midwifery Society, I still felt shy and held back by my PTSD. I was throwing myself into placement and my learning but still felt anxious about social events. I offered to join the committee and was delighted to attend the National Infant Loss Conference in London to support the committee in finding new speakers. This was a huge turning point for me, as the person I was supposed to attend with had to pull out and I had to go to London by myself and get stuck in at the conference. I came back feeling excited and ready to properly engage and finished first year with marks I was really pleased with, and I was so excited to put everything behind me and start second year fresh! I became fully committed to the Midwifery Society, single-handedly started organising a film screening and eventually raised almost £100 profit for the charity Group B Step Support. I helped to organise our annual Christmas party and had an amazing time contributing to the committee!
The rest of the year was a blur of assessments, midwifery society study days and making up the hours I’d missed whilst signed off earlier in the year. 

I’ve since been made president of the midwifery society, and have been working hard to make the society accessible and engaging to all, I’ve organised and hosted a hugely successful Breech Birth study day, our Christmas Party, and have been supporting my fellow committee members in organising events that suit their individual passions. We are looking forward to a stillbirth training session, and upcoming fundraising events such as the International Day of the Midwife, as well as officially ‘twinning’ the society with the local branch of the Royal College of Mid-wives.
I’ve also become a committee member with a new society, UBT Bournemouth, committed to raising money for and awareness of breast cancer and the importance of making self-checks part of everyone’s normal routine!
I was put forward by the heads of my degree course for a Health Leadership tutoring pro-gramme, and by my fellow students for the role of Student Representative but have not taken up either because they are both only open to Midwifery students in their first year. I have how-ever, been encouraged to run for election in the open spot to represent the South West of Eng-land on the Committee of the Royal College of Midwives Student Forum. Elections are yet to begin for this but I’m incredibly excited for the opportunity to help increase support and en-gagement in fellow student midwives.

This year I have been delighted to begin caseloading, taking on sole care of three women in their pregnancies and fitting in carrying out their appointments with the rest of my commit-ments. This has been an absolute joy and such an opportunity to support women with the gold standard of midwifery care.
I’ve been excitedly volunteering for every opportunity that comes my way, ranging from being an actress for PROMPT training for doctors and midwives at my local maternity unit, to confer-ences and study days from any suitable organisation, to helping first year students with revising for their breastfeeding exams, or teaching them to insert catheters!
I have recently been invited to the AGM of the international charity Maternity Worldwide, to discuss how we can support their worthy cause.

Hopefully the rest of the year will go continue to go well! I’m looking forward to continue fur-thering the reach of the Midwifery Society, and engaging in extra-curricular activities and charity efforts whilst supporting my cohort as society president, fingers crossed as Student Fo-rum Rep, and always as a friend.

ronnie barr
community star

All I’ve ever wanted to do in life is help others, from taking on extra responsibilities in school as a child to the volunteer work I do now as an adult. However as the intensity of my work with the community has increased so have the problems I’ve been facing. At 20 years old I am a disabled, LGBT+ transman who has recently overcome homelessness.
As a teenager I was diagnosed with depression and Asperger’s syndrome which meant I needed extra support from school and mental health services. Midway through sixth form this worsened to being diagnosed with dissociation which could range from me being dazed and confused to being unable to move or speak. Around the same time I was out as being a transman and pansexual. By the start of September this year things escalated further to the point where it was unsafe for me to stay at home and I had to spend the next two months living out of my friend’s spare room.

Anyone else might have given up by now. Unable to work, attend university, or even go throughout my day without the risk of hate crime I know I’ve felt like giving up many times. But no matter how much worse things have gotten for me over the years I just can’t bring myself to throw in the towel.

While I do everything I can to find support for myself I also try and give back to the community the best I can. Upon finding out I was unable to go away to university and study like many of my friends were doing I applied to study online at the Open University like many of my teachers had done. After receiving support from Space Youth Project for coming to terms with being LGBT+ I then began to volunteer for their peer support program Supernovas and have recently begun assisting with their anti-HBT bullying training in schools. Upon finding solace amongst like-minded individuals at Dorset Humanists I became the group’s Diversity Representative and joined their Schools Education Project. I’ve taken up opportunities to volunteer at local events, create videos educating people on mental health and LGBT+ issues, and tutor children across Bournemouth and Poole. No matter what’s been thrown at me all I want to do is help others and give back to the community.
But still I want to do more. I want to help other homeless people in Dorset who aren’t getting any support. I want to get qualified in peer mentoring at Space Youth Project and become an accredited school speaker for Dorset Humanists. I want to go on to finish my degree and start teacher training. I want to start my own business creating resources for children and young people who struggle in mainstream education. I want to take my support abroad to help people in other countries who struggle with education or human rights issues. I want to conserve our planet and save the world!

…I have huge dreams and it’s unlikely I can make the significant difference that I want to make. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try. I may not be giving as much as I want to now but that doesn’t mean I’m not making a difference. It’s the little things that have helped keep me going despite everything and it’s the little things I can do that can help make a huge difference to others around me. And so long as I can keep making any sort of difference I will never stop helping others.

adam leighton
community star

Adam experienced an adverse childhood, which affected him in many ways.  He has been in the care system and displayed challenging behaviours including ADHD and offending in his teens.  Adam engaged in support from NACRO and Bournemouth Youth Service and he went on to complete football coaching and boxing coaching certificates.  He volunteered for Bournemouth Youth Service where he trained and inspired other young people in an area of deprivation to get fit and participate in meaningful diversionary activities.  Adam had discovered that exercise was key to self-managing his ADHD and he began training in Muay Thai boxing.  He secured an apprenticeship as a Young Persons Substance Misuse Practitioner at Addaction where he completed a Level 3 Health & Social Care.  Whilst there he delivered substance misuse interventions to young people and he managed to evoke positive changes in and gained successful outcomes with many of the vulnerable young people that he worked with.  Some of these young people were homeless, in care, young offenders, had mental health issues, victims of CSE, etc.  Adam travelled to Thailand to discuss a business idea with his old Muay Thai boxing coach who then returned to the UK to set up a business with him.  In 2018 they set up and launched Sakprasert Gym opposite The Crescent in Boscombe, which is an area of poverty and deprivation.  Adam recognises the lifechanging impact physical activity can have on individuals and offers free use of the gym to any of his ex-addiction clients and other adults who are in recovery from substance misuse who can’t afford a gym membership.  Adam’s values and ethics and commitment to his community are inspiring.  He is a role model to anyone and makes change achievable.  Adam goes above and beyond for the local community and helps those most in need to turn their lives around in the same way he has managed to. 

chandy green
community star winner

Since leaving university in November 2017 with a degree in Social Work I have been dedicated to raising awareness of local charities including Dorset Mind and The Brain Tumour Charity. I have achieved this by holding fundraising events in Camden, London and delivering talks at various schools, universities and organisations about my lived experience of disability and mental health problems growing up. In recent months I have started working with Southampton Solent University to run workshops on supporting and engaging with young people. 

I have also been working with a local media based company to create a mental health awareness campaign video that we hope to release in December/ January after a slight delay due to physical health problems and production issues. I am also working on a crowdfunding project to buy Christmas presents for the Children’s Hospital at Southampton General. 

A hospital that supported me through my three brain surgeries from 1998 to 2014 to remove a tumour. 

In 2014 following my most recent brain surgery I co-Founded IFightFor CIC a not for profit organisations dedicated to running bespoke social action projects and collaborations. Due to my health concerns our projects and collaborations have been limited over the past year. But, up until June 2017 we were working with two housing associations in Chichester, West Sussex to support young people 13-16 through a music and drama based workshops over the course of a week. These workshops offered opportunities for personal growth and community development from an informal and creative basis. Moving forward we are applying to the Big litter grant making programme for a mentor scheme which we hope will support young offenders into work. We also hope to run more support services and networks in Bournemouth and West Sussex in areas most affected by absolute poverty and where statistically young people are provided with the least amount of opportunities into work and personal development. 

At the end of November 2018 I’ll be attending Westminster school to meet with a number of the school’s students to inform and share my story and pets development through education. I’m also planning to deliver a talk at Kings College London to both students and staff. 

I hope that by sharing my story it will show to others that disability doesn’t mean different. It doesn’t have to limit what you can achieve. And I believe that far too often we focus on the illness or disability has and forget about the person experiencing the impairment. So my hope is by doing the community work I do it’ll offer support and a voice to others. 

For more information please visit 


dan randall
apprentice star

Being an apprentice at Avec UK has changed everything for me, but I knew it would from the day I stumbled across their website. Before this I was at Queen Elizabeth’s school Wimborne, studying Double Business Award and Law.

 I’ve always had a heart for business, and it has been an interest of mine growing up. It was when my Grandpa passed away that my passion really grew. He was a successful business man and I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps. He passed away in January 2017, which is one of the hardest things I can name to date. Since then, I set my goals to live up to his standards and make him proud. This is the reason I have such drive and passion for the work I do both as a sole trader and working as an apprentice at Avec UK.

 Becoming an apprentice within a company has been a real game changer. University wasn’t for me because I have always been keen to work, and I love to learn on the job. I started out by looking for an apprenticeship in Dorset and found a company I really liked called Chill Blast. I applied but was turned down because I was told it wasn’t for me. Looking back, I can now also agree with this statement.

 I carried on with my search, but I struggled to find a place right for me. I completed my GCSE’s and I decided to stay on at QE sixth form whilst I continued looking for the perfect placement. Being settled at QE I was asked to mentor the younger students. This was a fantastic opportunity to put something business related on my CV. I held weekly lessons for three months, giving all the students a chance to create a business which they could then setup and sell to the whole school. I loved giving up my free periods to do this. It gave me the buzz and the excitement of what I could do in the future. The event was very well attended, and it gave the students a real insight into a being an entrepreneur.

 As I continued with my apprenticeship search, I came across Avec UK. I fell in love instantly. It looked like the perfect match. The apprenticeship was offering a position as a Project Manager. I felt this was quite a big role, but I was up for the challenge and excited to take it on. I completely reworked my CV and wrote a full covering letter. I sent these off and heard back from Bournemouth and Poole college a few days later. They invited me in for an interview.

 I felt I showed myself very confidently and was given good feedback in the interview. Having had emails back and forth with the college that week I was made aware on a Friday afternoon that that position was no longer available. Devastated was an understatement. Being unclear on what had happened and knowing that this was an opportunity to fight for, I deciding to call Avec UK directly, I was put through to the head of compliance. They made me aware that the position would no longer be available because of lack of applications for it. From speaking on the phone, I think he heard my passion for the apprenticeship, so I was asked to email over my CV and covering letter.

 After multiple emails back and forth I began to think that I was starting to annoy them. However, my persistence worked, and they finally invited me in to have an “informal career chat”. As soon as I was sat down in the MD’s office with one of the seniors, I knew my informal chat soon became a formal interview. As questions started to come my way I answered as fully as possible, showing my hunger for a position at Avec UK. I was offered an apprenticeship.

 At the end of the interview, they admitted to putting me to the test. Trying to put me off the job position, they were keen to see if I was truly passionate enough for a place at Avec UK. It was later that week we sorted all the apprenticeship logistics and did all the relevant setup for a week’s trial. I could not have been happier.

 My trial week was a huge success and I started officially on the 3rd April 2018. I have worked on multiple areas in the business and assisted all the project managers in any way possible this year. In my recent one-to-one I received some great feedback from both colleagues and my manager, being described as the reason the office flows so well. I work well with my colleagues and I look forward to getting into work to see what the day holds. Not many people can say that!

I have honestly gained such a passion for business and grown as a person since working at Avec UK that I can’t thank Becks, my MD, enough for giving me the opportunity to work in such an amazing place. Having just passed my first 6 months in the company I cannot wait to see what that next 6 months hold. Persistence to never give up is the real reason I’m here, and I will carry on making my Grandpa proud.

josh baum
apprentice star

I think my story is one of hope for graduates and late-bloomers.

My cohort is the generation that found themselves in a sticky situation upon leaving university. For people who studied degrees like mine, there are no clear-cut career paths. Jobs are more exclusive than ever, too. As is the case in many industries, in order to be considered for paid work, you need experience first. Employers are unlikely to take on graduates with no experience… but if you can’t get a job, where can you even get experience in the first place?

Alongside those feelings of guilt – “maybe I did the wrong thing at university…” – looms an unhealthy sense of entitlement. It’s easy to think, “I’ve worked so hard for this piece of paper, so where’s my reward? Where are the careers they promised at the UCAS fairs?

Only so much of what happens next has been up to me. As much as this is my story, I wouldn’t be the person I am without acknowledging the employer who bucked the trend and stood out from the crowd. Insightful took a chance on somebody who could tell you about Medieval poetry but – as it goes – very little about a PPC campaign. What Insightful saw wasn’t a name on a CV, it was a person with a willingness to learn. They saw me and possibility.

In that golden opportunity, I wanted to prove to my employers that taking me on the merit of my attitude, not by my credentials, was worth it.

Within 12 months, I was delivering presentations to clients, developing digital marketing strategies and building a professional network in a world that has accepted me with open arms. I’m a confident marketer and I can find solutions to problems that only a few months ago would have terrified me. It’s not easy to walk into a job on the first day and admit you know absolutely nothing, but it’s made easier in an environment that wants to nurture you, provide a platform for you to grow and learn and build you up to be the best damn person you can be.

In order to survive, humans need to adapt. Whether you’re sixteen or sixty-five, you need to keep an open mind and keep learning. It’s good to be humbled and learn from others. It’s vital to keep on learning, keep trying, and putting what you know into practice.

The world is changing and employers are giving us more chances to succeed in places we never thought we could. Capitalise on that opportunity and show the world that you’re more than grades on paper.

I am Josh. I am 24 years old and a proud apprentice. And I hope I never stop learning.

As for evidence:



  • Since taking over management of an existing client’s digital assets in May, I’ve increased their conversion rates and reduced their PPC cost per lead (screenshot of report attached).
  • Instigated, created and curated internal content strategy and calendar (screenshot attached)
  • Remember when I came to you in December with Lee to present our Online Review document? That document usually comprises of about 7 individual modules. At the time, I was in charge of 1 part. Across the 30+ brands I’ve now audited, for the last 5 I’ve taken the lead, co-ordinated and presented the majority back to clients.
  • 10 Second Insights on YouTube and Instagram, sharing little bits I’ve learnt with people in an accessible way. Video 1 and Video 2.

sophie rischmiller
entrepreneur star

My name is Sophie Rischmiller, I am a 20 year old marketeer, business owner, student, blogger and vlogger. Ever since I was 15 years old I have wanted to start my own business and ‘be my own boss’. I have been influenced my a very entrepreneurial family – both of my parents had their own small businesses as well as my uncles and aunties. 

During my years at Corfe Hills Sixth Form, I worked for a small start up creative agency which is where I first fell in love with marketing. After being at the agency for almost a year, my entrepreneurial side told me that I could take this business model and create something for myself. By this time I had applied for the BSc Marketing Degree at Bournemouth University and was beginning my career path in marketing. 

I left the agency I was working at half way through my first year of university and started my first creative agency just three months later. In the lead up to this I worked at two pubs, a catering company and with two ticket sales companies to get the initial money I needed to start the business. Just a few months into starting a creative agency, I realised that the business was not a true reflection of what I wanted to do and be. Despite the criticism, I rebranded my agency and it became Emporia Creative, a full service digital marketing agency. I feel that this was my first great challenge.

Over the past (almost) two years since starting Emporia Creative, I have completed the second year of my BSc Marketing degree and have gone on to my Placement Year which I was determined to complete working for myself rather than another company. The university generally take a disliking to students wanting to run their own business during Placement Year, so the application process was challenging. But I am pleased to say that I am now running Emporia Creative for my Placement Year! 

I have also decided this year, so that I can continue to keep a good rapport with the university and to contribute to other students learning, to take on the role of President for the Marketing Society. So far we have held two events, with four more coming up through to the end of 2018 and then a big Marketing Summit being organised for next year which aims to help students and business owners connect. One thing I noticed is that Bournemouth University to not give local businesses the opportunity to be a part of the university and I feel that students are missing out because of this. Students could be working at local marketing agencies alongside their degree like I did in sixth form! So this is why the Marketing Society are pushing for this change and I am excited to be helping lead that change with my excellent team.

I make an effort to have regular meetings with young people who approach me on LinkedIn asking how to start a business. I also recently started a YouTube Channel to try and convey some of my journey to those people who don’t know where to begin. A while ago I was interviewed for the Fish Tank Diaries where I told the beginning of my story in the hope that other young people could feel empowered to start their own businesses too –

I have always been an advocate for young people, women especially, who want to go out into the world and make their dreams come true by becoming their own boss and creating a better future for the people around them. I also believe that Leila Willingham (the woman who nominated me) is one of these people and I am blessed to be surrounded each day by these inspirational young people. Starting a business is hard and I have learned that you need to be strong in many ways in order to be an entrepreneur. For me, the pressure of starting and maintaining a business was felt much more due to the loss of my father, who sadly lost a battle with depression associated with the pressures of running his own business. But I think that in light of this, almost ironically, I have been able to be stronger. 

Emporia Creative is just the beginning for me. I have dreams of starting businesses in property and e-commerce among other things. But right now, we have just taken on our first part time employee and I am so excited to say that I am finally building a team! Being a young entrepreneur is exciting and scary all at once, but I want others to know that they can take on the challenge.

Thank you so much again and I can’t wait to hear from you!

elliot plate
entrepreneur star

I started my brand ‘Young Dreamer Next Achiever’ in 2014, as I wanted to create a motivational lifestyle brand to encourage people to have faith in their dreams and to pursue their passions. Growing up I always wanted to be a dancer, had interest in fashion and a desire to build my own business, all of which I was repeatedly told were unreliable paths to pursue. However, with hard work and determination, I have managed to turn my dreams into my career. I created this brand to encourage other young people to be fearless and take risks, to follow their passions to create something that is meaningful to them, and to find their unique path.

The company has grown a lot over the past 4 years. From pop up shops generating local sales to using ASOS Marketplace to spread our clothing and message internationally. I am most proud when I see how wearing our brand empowers someone to achieve great things. Most recently, one of our first supporters just made their west end debut and thanked our brand for giving them confidence and self-belief during the audition process.

Our most recent progression was the purchasing of our own print machinery, which means I can now do all our work in house, from buying the products to logo design, through to printing and finishing the products. In the future, I hope that the brand can generate enough income to have a store front. But, more importantly, make enough revenue to offer sponsorships to deserving young people to help them in their creative pursuits. To support other dreamers looking to pursue dance, the arts, extreme sports, or any other career path that it is easy to lose faith in.

There is plenty more to be said for myself and my brand but where I am so passionate in my company and its message, it is hard to put it cohesively and succinctly into words… I hope the above gives a sufficient insight. I’m also happy to talk more about my brand over the phone or in person if you need to know more.


  • Elliot established his clothing line and lifestyle brand in 2014. He called it Young Dreamer Next Achiever as he wanted to create a movement that celebrated the arts and encouraged those pursuing it to believe that any dream is attainable. He designs and manufactures all the products himself in house, and has invested a great deal of time, money and passion into this venture. Over the past 4 years, the company has grown from strength to strength and I for one am very proud of what Elliot has accomplished. He has big plans for the growth of the company in the future, however I think it is really admirable that his plans are not primarily driven by financial gain. He sincerely wants to help encourage other creatives to keep pushing for their dream, to establish a supportive community for them and to instil self-belief within them that anything is possible if you work hard.
  • Because of how hard he’s worked to build YDNA and its message.
  • Young Dreamer Next Achiever is not only a brand created by Elliot, but a true and meaningful message behind it.
  • Elliot is working hard to build and promote his YDNA (Young Dreamer Next Achiever) clothing brand, and the message behind the brand. His dedication towards offering a clothing brand that is not only of excellent quality, his personal approach to potential buyers and his ‘never give up’ attitude is inspirational. Definitely a worthy candidate for this award.
  • Elliot has built a brand which has not only offered great garments but a brand with a message that has inspired and resonated with people of all ages and backgrounds. Young Dreamer Next Achiever has allowed me to dream and achieve like never before.
  • Inspirational young man who sets a good example to others.
  • Top bloke, does a huge amount for our dance company as well as running a very nice clothing business
  • He’s putting across a message to inspire young people to achieve their dreams and to keep pushing forward

william st james
entrepreneur star

St James Studio is a Creative Communications Agency based in Bournemouth. We work with brands to deliver stand out campaigns, creative content and everything in between. Working across a range of sectors, St James Studio and its partners have had the privilege to work with a wide variety of brands, influencers and even a few celebrities (shhhh, that’s a secret… we can’t tell you too much about that just yet!). 

We work across the UK, and internationally delivering our expertise in building campaigns that help drive valuable connections with clients/customers through content that excites, educates and inspires them to take action in all its forms. 

A Little Bit About Me: 

I’m William St James, founder of St James Studio. I’ve lived in Poole & Bournemouth for over 12 years, having moved into foster care at the age of 11 with my amazing foster family in Poole I have been somewhat in love with the area ever since. 

Having worked within the marketing and creative sectors for a number of years, I decided in mid-2017 to set out on my own and offer Digital Marketing services on a freelance basis with the encouragement of my close friends and amazing foster family. After some encouraging interest from a selection of regional brands, I decided to set up St James Studio so that it could serve as a platform from which I could build an incredible team of experts who were equally as passionate about marketing, content and creative services as I was and do things the way they needed to be done. 

I’ve long had an interest in Marketing, and have always loved advertising in all its forms. Having taken the leap to start what would now be my 15th business (after many failed attempts) I honestly feel like the luckiest person in the world to have the ‘job’ that I do (can I really call it that?) I get to wake up each and every day, head to our office in Poole, and work with a group of immensely talented individuals across a range of disciplines all in the pursuit of helping our clients achieve their dreams and grow their business as a result. 

Launching my business has for sure come with its own set of unique challenges. I’ve had many ups and downs along the way, in each and every instance I’ve grown significantly as a person and have learnt things about the world, and myself that I never would have otherwise.

alex moyes
young parent star

I feel my story is very good proof that you can either let a difficult situation get on top of you and swallow you up, or you can use it as motivation to drive yourself forward and overcome it – if you have a child to support then this is more vital than ever.

It all started the day before I was due to come into Protect Line to meet with HR and David Brewer to complete some forms regarding credit checks and employment info etc. I had a call from my partner Kelly telling me an ambulance was on its way to her work as she was in severe pain – I actu-ally got to her before the ambulance did, and I didn’t have any blue lights to use! We were taken to Bournemouth hospital where they couldn’t establish what was going on, so they then sent us to the maternity unit in Poole, all whilst she was screaming in agony (which later turned out to be con-tractions!) and they then assessed her and carried out tests. As Reece had only reached just over 24 weeks gestation we had no idea what was going on but naturally feared the worse. The midwife and neonatal consultant came into our room and broke the news that she had gone into labour and was going to need to deliver him naturally and she was fully dilated. None of us had any idea whether he would even survive the birth or would be able to survive for long enough for the Doc-tors to intubate him.

After around 6 hours of hospital trips and tests Reece was born weighing 1lb 9oz at 22:07 on the 24th March 2015. After they stabilised him he was then transferred to the Princess Anne hospital in Southampton, as Poole hospital don’t have capacity to deal with any children born below 30 weeks. We arrived in Southampton at around 2am and had to wait until around 4am until we could see him. When we were eventually allowed in, we saw this tiny little boy whose eyes were fused shut inside an incubator hooked up to more machines than I care to remember. I think I managed to sleep for about 2 hours before driving back to Poole and still attending what I had committed to with David and HR to make sure this didn’t disrupt my employment journey especially at such an early stage. It was very hard to leave Kelly and Reece but I just knew I had to go to benefit us all in the long term.

We stayed in the Ronald McDonald charity hospital just across from Princess Anne to maximise our time with Reece, so I was commuting from Southampton to Poole every morning and evening whilst working 9.30am-7.30pm Monday to Friday. (I certainly don’t miss those 13/14 hour days!)

We watched him getting bigger and stronger over the coming weeks through many turbulent events. There are times I can remember Reece needing to be resuscitated or needing emergency attention and then leaving for work an hour later.

Once Reece had got to around 32 weeks gestation (so 8 weeks old) he was healthy enough to move to Poole hospital! Having him closer to home made life much easier, not only as I didn’t need to get up so early and spend so long commuting, but more so I could spend more time with him.

We only had one car at the time, which was okay when we were in Southampton as Kelly would just be in the hospital and not need to drive anywhere (Tesco Express etc were all within walking distance) but when we were back here, she would need to drive to the hospital from our rented flat. I subsequently purchased a bicycle and used this as my mode of transport, so my commute to work then included cycling to work in the morning from the flat, cycling to and from Poole hospital to see Reece from Protect Line on my lunch break, then cycling back home after work.

Again there were very scary moments when I was visiting on lunch, he had an issue with going quite bradycardic for a period of time, and there was a particularly bad episode, which thankfully he recovered from, but having to hop on my bike 10 minutes after watching your son turn blue was probably up there within the worst moments of my life.

After around another 8-10 weeks in hospital (and reaching the ‘usual’ 40 weeks gestation) we were allowed home! This really felt like the end of an era, from commuting by car for 2 hours+ per day, then cycling in the wind, rain and various other elements I finally had my little boy home.

Whilst all of this was going on, I was learning the ropes at Protect Line and adjusting to a very high level and fast paced sales environment. The job would have been hard enough to master without a critically ill son – but I knew what I was doing would be so good for him in the future so I knew I had to power through. After succeeding in Sales within the first 9 months of my employment I was awarded ‘Best Newcomer in 2015’ which was out of every new starter in the year. It was such a sweet victory, knowing that I’d overcome all of these challenges within hospital, whilst excelling in my new role.

In 2016 I put myself forward for a more specialist role, after being in sales for 12 months. I then took over as the Specialist Underwriting Consultant, a 1 man a role which requires a refined skill of being able to explain and deliver information to people with more severe medical condi-tions, whilst still focusing on the end goal of closing business and getting clients covered.

In 2017 and after growing the team from just me to 5 members, I was awarded the Seniorship title which I still retain now. Just like being awarded Best Newcomer, being given such a prestigious title within the company felt so much sweeter given everything that we had been through.

Whilst going through these changes within work and progressing, Reece was still going through so many follow up appointments; Lung tests, blood tests, eye check-ups, monitoring his growth and speech progression, it really was quite a balancing act of pushing myself forward within work, and pushing Reece forward to grow into the healthy happy boy that he is now.

Thanks to my hard work and Seniorship I have been able to give Reece a very comfortable life. We have 2 cars and a motorbike, we own our own home – none of which would be possible if I had giv-en up or said “sorry David, I can’t make the meeting today, Reece has been born so I’ll have to leave this for now”. Even without thinking about the material possessions, we are able to do so many fun experiences and go on so many trips and holidays, all of which I feel he deserves more than anyone else given what he has come through.

Whenever things got too much I used to say to myself, Reece is in hospital working hard to get bet-ter, so I need to work hard here to better myself.

And to this day and with nearly 4 years’ service under my belt, I still work hard to provide Reece with a happy life and keep myself progressing within Protect Line.

The support I have had from the company is something I will find hard to ever repay, as they have been so understanding from the moment I walked in the door.

storm rose
young parent star

I am Storm and I’m currently 19 years old. I have a little girl called Maci who is 5 months old. I fell pregnant with Maci when I was 18 years old (after completing my Beauty therapy apprenticeship) and without the support of my parents I decided I wanted to start my family. With the help of my partner, Calum that’s exactly what we did. We couldn’t be happier. Motherhood isn’t easy, especially when you’re young but all you can do is try your best! I also suffered with Hyperemesis Gravidarum which is a debilitating condition that only around 1 in 100 women experience during pregnancy. In severe cases (which is what I sadly experienced) women can be physically sick up to 40 times a day even when taking countless anti-sickness injections and tablets. There isn’t enough knowledge of this awful condition despite well known public figures such as Kate Middleton suffering with it throughout all of her pregnancies. I want to help raise awareness and continue to educate others about it and where they can get help and support if it is needed. When Maci was a few weeks old I found myself feeling quite lonely because many of my friends headed off to university etc and didn’t have children so I started going to local baby groups. Although I then realised that there are many parents locally who are too nervous/anxious to attend groups so I set up a closed Facebook group for local parents to meet others and so far it’s going very well. I have always spent a lot of time online, I have had a blog for nearly six years and that is now a successful motherhood blog too. I want to help more parents interact with others, whether that’s through a screen or popping out for coffee. It’s so important not to feel isolated. So, that’s a little bit about me.

alice gray
young parent star

My story; I have a 5 year old called Logan who is so amazing and is my little life saviour. I am a lone parent and have been since Logan was 8 months. Being a parent to Logan is so rewarding however there has been some struggles along the way. I had Logan when I was 17 years old, I left school with no GCSE’s apart from two merits in B-TEC ICT and art. I then went to college for 1 year to do level 3 art and design which I enjoyed but I  got into the drug scene and so my attendance wasn’t great. I then fell pregnant with Logan so I finished the 1st year of college. Once I had Logan everything had to change as I knew I had to for my son so that’s why Logan is my little saviour, who knows where I would of ended up if I didn’t have Logan.

When I was 15 years old I was involved with mental health services and I didn’t listen or do what I should of done when it was needed.

After I had Logan I knew I had him to think about first and I didn’t want to be a bad mum so I went on to anti depressants from the doctors. I came off them 1 year later. My mental health is a on going battle to this day with anxiety and depression, but I feel that I wont let that stop me from doing what I want to do in life.

When Logan was 1 me and his dad ended our toxic relationship and he then kicked me and Logan out so the council helped us and put us in a BnB, we then went to temporary accommodation for 8 months. I finally got my council flat which I’m still so grateful for.

About 1 year later when Logan was at playschool for 2 and a half days I wanted to do a Edas (essential drug and alcohol services) course which would enable me to volunteer with YADAS (young adult drug & alcohol services) which is such a good organisation and one that I am very passionate about and I have continued to volunteer for what would be 3 years in February 2019.  Doing the EDAS courses has enabled me to understand a lot more about myself and my life and other things in the world. Which helped me mentally and I gained knowledge.

I then did my functional skills English level 2 then I did level 1 maths whilst I did another course with Edas which was ” Access to HE diploma in practitioner in substance misuse”. I then did my functional skills level 2 maths. I did all of this whilst being a lone parent and volunteering with the help/support from my 81 year old grandma and my good friend Jess.

I have now been accepted to do a degree in youth work with the George Williams college which is based in London. The degree is mainly off campus studies and volunteering will be a part of my studies. The course is well suited to me as it enables me to be a parent first and volunteer with Yadas while doing a degree.

When at Yadas I believe I inspire others because when I am with them doing work I am able to draw on my personal experiences to help understand theirs and be empathetic.

I also feel I have inspired/helped friends/acquaintances when they have came to me and asked for advice with their personal issues and it is great to know they trust me because of my experiences to help them. Sharing my story could also be inspiring for people that are about to/already have children, to show that anything is possible and to not stop believing in what they want to do with their life.  Also as I had a drug and mental health issue myself I can relate and say that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel.

leon clarke
young carer star

My name is Leon Clarke. I have been a young carer for practically all my life. I look after my mum who is disabled. When I went to my secondary school, I found it hard and was always getting into trouble. I found it challenging with certain teachers and students tested me because I wasn’t the best with the work or the physical education side of things that made me start to dislike school quite a bit. In year 7 I did all my work had only 12 detentions out of the whole year as soon as year 8 came round that’s when I had problems skipping school. Then it carried on through the year I had an optional manage move and it failed so I ended up back at my original secondary school and my behaviour was terrible, I was getting excluded practically every day and then got kicked out.

From there I went to a behaviour school (Quay school) on Turlin Moor and it changed my life I started to get respect for others, started to realise I’m not the only one with problems that finds it hard and I think that’s the bit that made myself realise that I can do better in life and only because main stream schools are closed with my whole education behind them so I had to build from that. I lost 4 and a half stone through boxing which Quay school introduced me to and can’t thank them enough. It hit me hard I was a size 44 waist trousers now I’m size 32 waist. I have my first boxing match in 4days (1st of December)and from looking at me today and my life then it’s made me realise that I want to help others get through what I have. And turn anger into passion through boxing as everyone likes to relive their anger but not everything works. If I can do it and change my life then others can. If I inspire one person to change their life, after they learn my story then I will be happy. Because at the end of the day I want to inspire people and want to work teaching others to box.

abby king
young carer star

I would like to thank you for this amazing opportunity for not only nominees like me but all young people, as it allows us to celebrate the achievements and challenges we may face throughout our teen years. My story begins at the end of GCSEs (2017) in which I was all set to do my 4-week course with NCS (National Citizen Service)  however the day before I was due to leave I noticed the pain my mother had been in. She worked 3 jobs and I barely saw her. My task before I left was to persuade her to go to the hospital to check herself over before I left. Arriving at the hospital we were rushed straight to the critical ward and my mother ended up staying in overnight. She begged for me to continue the NCS course and promised she’d update me. By the end of the first week I found out she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, so chemotherapy started very quickly. 

At around Christmas time last year, we had to make serious sacrifices as we couldn’t afford big expensive gifts for each other, and had to rely on a food bank to provide us food over the Christmas period as we could not afford our own, Christmas was hard for us all but the thought of still having my mother here with us made me realise how lucky we were. Over the next few weeks my mother was barely capable of doing anything and developed severe symptoms in which she had so many water blisters on her legs, she was in a wheel chair for a couple of weeks which resulted in her having to take sick leave at work to rest and get better. My father who isn’t around much was then diagnosed with pneumonia in which I was travelling back and fourth from Southmead Hospital in Bristol, where my father lives, and Poole Hospital where my mother was being tested and having chemo. I found myself doing multiple tasks daily as well as struggling with my first year at sixth form. When I joined sixth form I was taking A-level geography, A-level sociology and a diploma in food science and nutrition however near the end of the first academic year I dropped sociology due to the eating disorder and depression which I had developed while coping with my mothers illness. I feel the most difficult part of my story is that ive had to see my mother at her worst, and even though I also reached rock bottom at multiple times I had to keep going as she depended on me and I had to be strong for her, no one will understand all the challenges my brother and I have faced although they will see the strength and positives it has brought out in us.

I can confirm from this experience that I now know how to fill in tax forms as well as sorting bills, due to my mothers illness we struggled severely with keeping a sustainable income and after days of reaching out to people I got hold of and managed to get a monthly payment of universal credit, however this wasn’t enough as it only just paid for our mortgage. I phoned Macmillan multiple times and we arranged many phone call meetings with my mothers bill providers where I managed to get money off some of our bills. Due to the financial issue we had been in we had gone into our £1000 overdraft, a year on and we are still in a financial crisis where when we get our universal credit payment we can only get out of our overdraft for a few days and then bills come out and we are in a continual loop. I have multiple issues with my father where he claims he isn’t getting paid properly which caused my mother to fall ill again, after controlling the income the bills the household chores and my studies I realised how much I was doing and the reason why I wasn’t coping as well as I thought I would. 

I took this challenge to my advantage and after having a dream of being a chef, I decided this wasn’t for me and I realised I had a love for caring. My next steps is to continue with my studies as well as looking after my family but also working on my carer. I am going to start volunteering for Lewis-manning hospice in which I can decide whether I want to become a palliative care worker and use the skills I have learnt from this horrible time in my life to help others who could do with the support in which I have developed whilst looking after my mother. I feel my story may inspire others as after finding it hard to cope and actually using it as an excuse to change my mind set and to explore the careers out there by using the skills I learnt from the challenges I’ve faced to help others, my story will never fully end as my mother will never fully recover although we will continue to develop as a family and I will continue to support the people around me who are in need.

Thank you for giving me the time to share my story and to help give others the insight of what I’ve been through and how I’ve adapted it into something good for myself and the people I intend to help.

lizzie hart
young care worker star

I am 26 years old and have grown up in care all my life. I really struggled at school and didn’t get the results I wanted which was a great disappointment however I was still offered a place at Bournemouth College to do my Level 3 in Health & Social care diploma. Whilst carrying out my full time Diploma I was working at Aucklands Resthome building up experience on the job caring for elderly people with all different health and mental health needs, at this time we were block booked with Bournemouth Borough Council supporting them to assess people to ascertain whether or not they could go back and live in the community independently or with a package of care or whether they would require full time residential. Once I had completed my Diploma I continued to work full time at Aucklands and carried out my level 3 NVQ in health and social care.

At the age of 19 I applied for a Deputy Manager position at Seabourne House care Home which is a 48 bedded home for people living with Dementia, I thought at the time it would just be an excellent experience to sit an interview etc. however I got the job. I also did this to prove my ability away from the family home.  My job role was very wide covering lots of different aspects of managing a care home whilst running the home in the manager’s absence. I had a team of approximately 80 staff that I would be supporting, managing and supervising. This was a massive challenge at times as I was managing staff that were a lot older than me and found it hard to accept, I was there line manager, nonetheless I managed to prove myself and build a great working relationship with them all. I started my Level 5 in team leadership & management at 19.

After a couple of years at Seabourne I was transferred to one of there sister homes Aranlaw House Care Home which again specialised in Dementia Care but a bit higher level. I was nominated best team player of the year here and had a great working relationship with all the staff. Instead of using agency I would have much rather covered shifts even if it meant working long hours to keep consistency in the home for the people we cared for and to support the staff. I fell pregnant at the age of 22 and worked at Aranlaw until the day I went into labour and returned to work after 6 weeks. I then became a single mum at 23 but I was adamant to remain in full time employment. I made a really hard decision to return back to the family home where I was Care Manager.

At Aucklands I completed my level 5 and carried out my Teaching qualification which was added to my care manager role making me the care manager and training manager of the home. Aucklands is a specialist dementia and mental health home caring for those with significant needs and challenging behaviour a lot that require safe hold to prevent harm to themselves or others. I manage a unique team that have unique abilities to provide amazing care for those that other homes cannot manage. Our latest CQC report was outstanding and in it reflects the type of work we do with our residents so as a manager the pressure is quite high.

I’m passionate about ensuring high quality care in a safe environment I work closely with the community mental health teams, social workers etc. to ensure we are doing everything we can for our residents. All staff are trained by me and I ensure that they are trained to an extremely high standard, all induction training is 8 days long, I will then carry out regular competencies in between training refreshers to be certain that the standards remain the same. I also train other care homes now as well.

At the age of 26 I’m on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week, happy to support staff day or night.

Auckland’s are in the process of building a 38 unit (2 houses and 3 bungalows) we have a meeting with the commissioner of Bournemouth to discuss the potential placements there and where there is a gap for needs in the area. Once it is built in the next year I will be managing it. I am now in the process of enrolling on to an Open University mental health nursing degree to support with the new build residential/possibly nursing care home.

The reason I nominated myself for this is because I want to be able to speak, show other young people that despite not doing as well at school as I could I have still been able to achieve well and have an excellent salary. This is just a snippet of me, my life and my job. Any further information please don’t hesitate to contact me.

liam brown
young care worker star

I have worked at Aucklands for 2.5 before starting at Aucklands I found it difficult to motivate myself to find a job and I was unsure what career path I wanted to take however once I was offered a position at Aucklands I was certain that Health & Social care was the way forward for me.

I have completed my level 2 and I am now currently working towards my level 3. I have recently been promoted to team leader, I find it really rewarding caring for the people that we do despite everyday being a challenge, making such a difference to people’s lives even if it is only small is amazing.

I am also the Dignity and Dementia champion at Aucklands so I ensure that staff are providing dignified care to our residents and monitor all dementia care and refer staff for additional training if required. I also attend outside training sessions to bring back to the home and cascade down to our other staff to implement best practice throughout.

I spend a lot of time without male residents that have significant behaviour problems, building up relationships with them and their families. I carry out a weekly men’s morning which the male residents gain a lot from.


I feel privileged to be working for a small care family run care home that looks after people that other homes can’t manage that has got outstanding with CQC and we have great results for our residents that come to us requiring safe hold but with the right approach and time things can be managed lease restrictive. 

leila willingham
shooting star

Feeling very privileged!!

I decided to go to Uni for many reasons and definitely think it was the right thing to do for me. If at some point in my career I need to get a degree, I will do so then, when I have the drive to.

However, right now, I was ready to get out and work in the real world, develop my skills and gain experience. I was happy to take the risk on trying to gain experience over a degree and see where I could with that.

It’s not right for everyone, but I do feel more young people should think harder about whether going to University is really right for them.


Her nomination she wrote from another category:

Out of both awards, I am absolutely over the moon to have been nominated for this one in particular. I feel like this is because as an entrepreneur, there are many rewards, the press coverage, the success of our launch, the feedback on our services, however my ultimate drive for Digipigz came from recognising that I’d had a step in life to get where I am, a step that not everyone gets. I felt that I was in a position to create this step for more people, and if I could open doors for the talent I saw in my peers. I was frustrated that as a generation we were up against stereotypes that needed breaking down, it felt right to create a platform that tried to do this in one, kill multiple birds with one stone and all that!

Highlights from my Digipigz journey so far include growing a community of likeminded people. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to meet young people on the same page as you as a young entrepreneur, or a student who’s desperate to get into the ‘real world’ and being able to create a place for people to meet each other, share experiences and feel less alone in this big old journey us driven spirits like to embark on, is absolutely amazing.

Part of what I wanted Digipigz to do was to introduce networking events, business leaders and contacts to young people who would benefit greatly from these. We are so lucky in Bournemouth to have such a nurturing community, it seems a shame for young people to miss out on this. However, I also want to use the platform to help other young people believe in themselves. It can be really daunting going into the world of work, a meeting or an interview as a young person, but I think there is so much in holding your head high and being confident in what you have to say. It’s easy to let your ‘lack of experience’ get in the way, thinking that others in the room wont respect you as much. I’ve learnt over the last year that if you respect yourself, you can learn to command the respect of others, whatever age, and that’s what I want to try and instil in other young people.

I enjoy public speaking and feel getting up there and speaking publicly about the great things young people can do, demonstrating we aren’t all lazy teenagers is just a small way to make a change to the stereotypes. I particularly loved speaking with one of our Digipigz, Georga Turner, at Bournemouth & Poole College Women In STEM event this year. She’s such a driven individual and has such great educated opinions on women in STEM, she’s the perfect advocate to speak out and encourage her peers to enter the STEM industries. I know that was one the first speaking opportunities she’d done on that scale and being there to work through the process with her was a privilege.

My recent filming with BBC3 was for a documentary on sexual harassment in the work place. I’m not a shy person and don’t like hiding away from sensitive topics. There are ‘young entrepreneurs’ across the UK who have established themselves with an influential voice, they use it to motivate and inspire other people but I feel we are very good at talking about drive and goals but actually aside from all of that, there are other topics in business that need to be talked about more openly. The experience debating the issue with other 18-26 year olds was really eye opening and I’m so glad that I was selected aS part of the group to speak about this topic openly and begin a conversation.

I am inspired every day by the energy and drive so many young people have, I have always felt proud to be a part of ‘Generation Z’ and take pride in the fact I am working to inspire other young people.

sam perkins
shooting star

I definitely prefer listening to others tell their story, so this all feels rather strange! Anyway, I guess

I’m going to have to suck it up for this one. Here is my story thus far and how it’s got me to where I am today.


The beginning I wouldn’t say I’ve not had an academic background, but it certainly isn’t complete. I did GCSES and A levels, then went to University to study business management and enterprise. To cut to the chase, I dropped out, after only one year; I never got my degree and instead I have a certificate which no one really cares about, and quite rightly so. I spent the previous few years at school selling Apple earphones to students (and even the teachers) and expected something from higher education that probably wasn’t there in the first place. There are many reasons for dropping out, but in short it was all too rigid and uninspiring. The real world seemed like a much more exciting endeavour, even if I’d have to live with the stigma of not having a degree. As such, I knew that getting a job at a reasonable level in most companies was out of the question (you only had to look at or any other job site to realise that) so I had to find another route in.


After University I needed some experience so got a job at an I.T company as an engineer, where my dad was my boss! Long story short, this is where I learned to graft, I drove 75,000 miles in the first

year (not including doing the actual work) and my dad made it particularly difficult for me quoting,

“it’s character building”. In hindsight, he was 100% right and I learned a lot of discipline here.




Back in 2013, whilst at the I.T job I noticed a gap in the market. Learner and novice drivers were still reading pamphlets and anything online in terms of information was just boring. I designed an online app based system that would take learner drivers through a systematic process, from choosing an instructor to passing their theory and designed it in such a way that would engage a young audience.

After various meetings with the Welsh assembly government, the DFT, Rospa and consultants, all declined to help due to lack of budgets or lack of expertise. I didn’t have the funds or connections to start it myself, so put this on the backburner.


I moved to from Wales to Bournemouth on a whim and joined a friend who started a video production company. In return for my help, my friend promised to produce video content for DriverHub and after winning a big contract all attention turned to my friends video company. In this time I tried to build a network of contacts and after 6 months I went back to DriverHub. However in doing so, I found out that a company with the same idea had been given £3 million worth of investment and rendered DriverHub pretty much obsolete!


After this set back I needed to regain some savings and worked in a pub in the evenings to gain some extra money. I had met Sam Howell a few months prior who knew my friend at the video production company. I kept in contact with Sam and he helped me through a pretty difficult time.


The start of something new at Sam Howell Ltd:


I really admired Sam Howell and what he was doing for businesses and indeed people, which I experienced first hand. I approached him and asked whether I could do some ad-hoc work, even if it was just sorting out his receipts. Sam gave me one day a week, I tried my best to over deliver on my first day and as such, Sam gave me two days a week. I offered to help him with the operations and freeing up some of his valuable time and the following week he then gave me 3 days a week. After one month I was contracting full time and worked as hard as could to streamline the whole of the business. The business went through a redesign both operationally and marketing wise, the model changed and we were drumming up some more business.


I knew that Sam had taken a leap of faith financially and wanted to contribute to the business. After learning Adobe suite I could provide graphic design services for clients and thus generate some ad-hoc revenue. After that I dedicated my evenings to learning anything from building websites to looking through company finances. This was really the turning point which really kicked off my career and gained me some respect and support from clients that engaged with our company.

With the support of Sam, I now have 7 clients that I look after on a daily basis, supporting them with their operations, marketing, sales, business model along with many others. To summarise, I guess I act as an outsourced business partner or non-exec for these companies. It does feel quite strange sitting with a 40 year old director and essentially challenging them on their business. I’m continuing to learn everyday and building a bigger client base every month and there may also be another side project in the pipeline too…!


How this story may help others: There are a few pertinent points that are applicable for the next generation. I’m not sure whether my story is necessarily inspiring but I can certainly pick out a few points that helped me on my journey.

julianne langston
teaching star

1. Why do you think you might have been put forward for this award?
I feel I have been nominated for this award as I started The Bourne Academy in 2010 as a student (when I was in year 9) and have now come back to the Academy to complete my teacher training. Throughout my time at the academy (both as a student and staff), I have strived to come in everyday with a positive outlook and a smile on my face. I originally went to university and completed my degree in Stadium and Events Management, however, teaching has always been something I have thought of doing, and now I absolutely love what I do! My start at the academy has been a rollercoaster, from starting out volunteering in the sixth form, I started the academy in September as a cover teacher with the goal of starting my teacher training in January. Circumstances changed, and I have since moved on from my title as cover supervisor to now having my own classes, and although it’s been a quick change, I have loved every minute and enjoy facing each challenge as it comes.

2. What methods do you use to enthuse and engage your pupils/students and how this inspires their learning?
As a new teacher, I am still trying to find my feet and test the water with what methods do and do not work for both my students and me. However, I always knew that positive reinforcements and achievable goals were something that I wanted to make sure the students have. In lessons, students are encouraged to come into the classroom with a ‘I can’ or ‘I will try’ attitude. Students names who are working well and trying their best will receive a reward, and if a student is struggling with a task I will give them their own ‘mini target’ for the lesson, to encourage them to keep going and not give up just because something is challenging. For me, it is all about building a relationship with students were we can work together to get over hurdles, instead of stopping at one.

I also like to provoke thought, and apply as much of the work as possible to ‘real life’. From being a student to teacher at the academy, I have the ability to empathise with the students and think back to what I would have liked to done more of in school. I’ve heard some students challenge lessons with asking ‘what’s the point in doing it?’. I try my best to engage my students through discussions about context and how what we are learning can encourage thought and discussion into real life situations. For example, I have been Of Mice and Men with year 8 and Power and Conflict poetry with year 10, and from these lessons the class have sparked some healthy debate and discussion, talking about issues such as racism, sexism and war, and teaching them to empathise with others, imagine being in someone else’s situation and how they would feel about it.

3. Do you have any feedback from pupils, parents, carers or colleagues about the impact you make in the classroom?

I have had some comments from students since taking over their lessons where they have said they now enjoy coming into their English lessons, they look forward to working on the different tasks, and they know they will not be ‘told off’ for not understanding; instead they know I will give them as much help and support as possible.
A few weeks ago I was sat in my classroom and a science teacher walked past my door. Instead of just walking past, he came in and made a comment about how he has noticed how well I have settled into the academy, and noticed my positive outlook and how this approach has helped me to build positive relationships with the students. My colleagues in English have also commented on how I have a positive impact in the classroom. From various lesson observations and drop-ins, I have had feedback on how I help engage the students by walking around the classroom, engaging with all the tables and trying to encourage students to put their hands up and answer questions in class.

4. How do you balance monitoring the individual progress of pupils/students with the needs of the class/group as a whole?

As a teacher, I feel that one of the most important things is being able to recognise various students’ abilities, and plan lessons so that each student can achieve an ‘achievable goal’ by the end of the lesson. To differentiate for the individual progress of students in lessons, the students either have hot, medium or mild tasks to complete. These tasks vary in difficulty, to ensure that students who have a higher target grade are answering questions to help them progress, however, students who struggle a little more have a different task to ensure they can understand the work and the task being set. In my classroom I also have something I like to call a ‘focus table’. This is the table where when it comes to completing a task, I will aim to spend a little bit more time with these students to ensure they have a clear understanding of what they need to do. If a student is unsure in lessons and they are not sat on this table, they know that they can move their chair and sit with this table until they feel comfortable with the task at hand and can go and complete it individually.

5. How do you contribute to the wider school activities and environment and would you say you are setting an example for others?

As well as my role as an English teacher, I also run an after school drama club for KS3 students. This is open to all KS3 students to join, and throughout the weeks we have been working on various scripts and performance pieces to build up the academy’s ‘Telling Tales Festival’ where they can showcase their work. I feel I am a positive role model for the students and in the wider community as I always try my very best and am a very optimistic person. I feel my personal story/journey is something that students can look up to, as it shows that no matter what you can always go on to do something you love and enjoy. For example, after completing my degree in Stadium and Events Management, I ended up teaching, and although I enjoyed my degree, teaching is something I have always wanted to do and so thankful I now have the opportunity to learn and progress within teaching. I aim to help students keep an open mind, and always reassure them that if they do have any questions, for example life at university, then I am always willing to talk to them and help them as much as I can.

6. Please add any additional information you feel is relevant to the nomination

To summarise, I feel extremely privileged to be nominated for this award, and although my career is only just beginning, I am excited to start this journey, help students learn, and use my own experiences to help students achieve the best that they can be.

jasmine hunt
teaching star

  1. Why do you think you might have been put forward for this award?

I started working for BCS when I was 21 covering the maternity for the Head of Rowing and worked my way up to becoming the permanent Head of Rowing and swim co-ordinator.

I feel I have proved myself to my peers and I work really hard to make sure all my rowers are happy and are working towards what they want to achieve.

For the swim school I communicate well will teachers and parents trying to make our swim school the most successful.


  1. What methods do you use to enthuse and engage your pupils / students and how does this inspire their learning?

Swimming- more imaginative techniques with younger ones – scooping ice cream, motorbike or boat woggle, putting face in the water to look for the fish. With the older ones, trying to include diving at the end of the session or swimming through the hoops. Making sure that I give them lots of praise when they do something correctly and when they are trying really hard.

Rowing- in the winter the majority of our training is in the gym due to the weather, which can be quite repetitive. I try and mix the session up with lots of variety in the training we do. As well as adding in a weekly plank and wall sit competition for each year group where they compete to see who can hold the position for the longest and then their name goes up on the wall as the winner of the week.


  1. Do you have any feedback from pupils, parents, carers or colleagues about the impact you make in the classroom?

Yes, conversations and emails of thanks and compliments from both rowing parents and swimming parents. How I have helped their children overcome their fears in swimming and improved their technique. I have been told I have a calming approach and am patient with their learning reassuring them and giving them praise, both in swimming and rowing.


  1. How do you balance monitoring the individual progress of pupils/students with the needs of the class/group as a whole?

I have an individual spreadsheet for each rower which I update and log their training sessions, effort, behaviour as well as racing success and academic progression and concerns. I have also included a questionnaire which the rowers answered at the beginning of the school year on what they liked the most about rowing and their ambitions for this year. I log this to make sure both they and myself are aware of their goals.

With swimming we assess the swimmers at the end of each term where we do skills badges and distance badges.


  1. How do you contribute to the wider school activities and environment and are would you say you are setting an example for others?

I help in the p.e department and cover swimming sessions and gym sessions for the children at our school. I helped organise a whole school charity walk for one of my rowers that needed a new prosthetic rowing leg and for Dorset Children’s Foundation where we raised over £15,000 which was fantastic.

In March 2018 I decided that at the beginning of each term, I would run a raffle for the swimming parents at our learn to swim school to raise money for charity. The prizes are; a free term of lessons and a free half a term of lessons. 50% of the money raised goes to Dorset Children’s Foundation and the other 50% goes to the Just Giving page of one on the swimming mums who is having to fund her treatment for an aggressive brain tumour. I have been running this for a two terms now and have raised just under £300. I would like to think that I am setting a good example for others.

I have taken over the swim co-ordinator role from one pool we teach at and have grown the swim school and the number of swimmers there, as well as setting up the swim school at the other pool.

  1. Please add any additional information you feel is relevant to the nomination

I am really passionate about what I do and feel really honoured to be nominated for this award.

oliver cooper
teaching star

1. Why do you think you might have been put forward for this award?
Since 2016 I have been employed by Shaftesbury School, and throughout that time I have been forever honing my skills as an educator. I believe I have been put forward for this award because even from the first day of my employment I have shown unwavering dedication towards the school with all aspects of the profession. I have endeavoured to hold all pupils in unconditional high regard knowing that every student matters regardless of their past actions. I want the school to continue improving and I want to play a key role in this; as such I have created brand new clubs and societies that provide an educational, inclusive and enjoyable experience for all at Shaftesbury School. Above all though, I believe my nomination comes as a response to my indomitable will to overcome adversity in whatever form it may appear so that I can continue to strive to become an outstanding teacher completely devoted to providing the best education I can to all the students I come in to contact with.

2. What methods do you use to enthuse and engage your pupils / students and how does this inspire their learning?
Engagement of students has always been one of my strong attributes and I have continued this throughout the school year with a variety of methods. I listen to a selection of podcasts that enrich my understanding of the present and the past and I try to share this with my students; be that as a fun fact about medical history on my door every day to incorporating in to my lessons the latest scientific break throughs like the discovery of a new element. I understand the importance of being a role model that enjoys learning and being able to demonstrate outstanding teaching methods. As such I have attended a multitude of TeachMeet events to learn the latest in exemplary teaching and to adopt these strate-gies in my own lessons to engage and enthuse through interesting lesson hooks and gamification of learning episodes. Engagement can also come in many forms but I do believe that students learn best when their learning is linked to their own hobbies and interests, as such I adapt lessons to accommo-date for this, be that in the form of discussing with year 10 students how to make an electromagnetic railgun or linking KS3 lessons to a plethora of sports activities.

3. Do you have any feedback from pupils, parents, carers or colleagues about the impact you make in the classroom?
Feedback from my Initial Teacher Training Co-ordinator: “Oliver has been an asset to the Science department and the school during his training year, enabling students to experience an enthusiastic set of lessons that are planned in detail, with creative, fun and enjoyable elements to them. He has often used hook starters and activities to capture his audience and to promote curiosity; this has certainly helped him with managing his learning environment. The wider roles Oliver has taken within the school has put other, more permanent members of staff to shame and he has contributed massively to the enrichment of student’s lives with the introduction of a new extra-curricular club for the school, the attendance on school trips and the support on school Teacher training interview days. He has a passion for his subject and this exudes from him within his lessons and outside of his lessons. He is fast to act on his areas of development and is a completely trustworthy member of staff. The relationship Oliver has developed with his students inside the classroom is brilliant and is also reflected in his day to day presence around the school. He is keen to develop and any school would be lucky to have him.”

4. How do you balance monitoring the individual progress of pupils/students with the needs of the class/group as a whole?
To understand a pupil’s progress you need to understand a pupil, learning what makes them tick and their key interest and hobbies allows me to tailor their learning and accommodate their progress in Science. I employ consistent assessment for learning strategies in my lessons ensuring that individual pupils continually feedback following learning episodes so I can gauge their understanding subtly despite it being in front of others. Student self-reflection is becoming an ever increasing part of my teaching style too, as I strongly believe students need to be aware in themselves of where they are and what they need to do to improve. This will come in the form or formative and summative assessment but all the while be centred around each student being able to identify positives in their work and highlighting areas of improvement and they have and how to overcome these. Following activities like this I can easily identify key areas that students may need to focus on and adapt my teaching in future lessons to accommodate for gaps in understanding and for areas where students can be challenged more. Comparing my results to other groups data from across the school and with that of national average I am also able to identify the level of progress my students are making as a class and coupled with using data analysis software I can quickly clarify which key students I need to work with individually to improve the class’s overall levels of progress.

5. How do you contribute to the wider school activities and environment and are would you say you are setting an example for others?
Contributing to the wider ethos of a school can manifest in many different forms and I feel it has my responsibility to continue to support and grow Shaftesbury School in a number of ways. When I joined I established a brand new Warhammer and Gaming Club; a safe space for students to learn new skills and have fun playing strategic games. I have grown this group from just two year 8’s to almost twenty students across a range of year groups through advertising and acquiring external funding and support from outside of the school over the last two years.
I continue to be proud of my contributions to the school especially during Black History Month in which I was able to organise the Science department to work with students to create a large display of how the Black community have supported the Sciences throughout the ages. This turned out a big success and all the best student’s work is still proudly on display in the Science block.
I feel I am most setting an example to the other members of staff by being a founding member of the Rainbow Alliance at Shaftesbury School; this is an LGBT+ club set up by myself and 2 other teachers to support and provide a safe space for students who currently identify as LGBT+ or want to be allies for people they know. I believe it my utmost responsibility to ensure all students are treated with respect regardless of their identity, the club is open to all and it aims to end stigmas and to identify the needs of all students and I am most truly humbled and honoured to be a part of that.

Oli has also put together a 6 minute video of his journey please have a look at that here:
NOMINATION: Oli worked with us as a TA up until last year when he chose to undertake teacher training. Oli from the start showed an exceptional commitment to the young people in our school and carried out extra one to one support sessions before, during and after school to support students who were struggling with Science. The school’s Science results were the best they had ever been that year and in no small way is down to Oli. When joining us to train he continued to add extra classes and enrichment activities, balancing an incredible workload, remaining focused on ensuring his students achieved their best. His workload was greater than many trainees in that he did not have a specifically Science-based degree so had to carry out subject knowledge enhancement alongside his education studies. He has now started this year as a NQT, is running extracurricular activities outside of his subject (Warhammer and Badminton), sharing his experience with others in their journey into teaching and with all of this, will offer you a welcoming smile and hello. He has visited primary schools to work with those students. We ask that staff ensure that students become the best they can be – under Oli’s guidance we have no doubt they will. A real Rock (Geology reference!) Star.
Lots of feedback ranging from email and comments from grateful students and parents, numbers attending clubs and extra sessions and comments from his mentor and trainee teacher coach

beth rose
creative star

Here’s a little about my creative journey.

It all started at school, I was obsessed with anything I could draw, write, paint and make noise with. At the age of 9 I was lucky enough to receive violin lessons from my parents and I loved it. Soon after I saw a competition to design a ukulele for a big American brand, Kala. I won! And to this day my ukulele is being sold all over the world. Music took over my being as I began to listen to more music and a few years later, with my new found love for singing, I decided to start learning the gui-tar. After five years of teaching myself how to play with hours of practice and watching YouTube videos I started performing in bars, hotels and at small festivals. The money from my musical ad-ventures as well as working early mornings in a bakery, paid for my camper van. My van and I trav-elled all over the UK playing at festivals, exploring and gaining independence.

Having just finished a busy season of music festivals, in 2014 I decided to pack my bag and book a one way flight to New Zealand. I had no idea how long it would be until I came back home, and I had no idea what I was going to do, but for me that was the excitement… I was heading into the unknown and I loved it.

I travelled all around New Zealand with my backpack and guitar, working various jobs as I went earning just enough money to sustain myself. I skydived, jumped off cliffs, climbed volcanos and crawled through caves lit up by glow worms. Eventually I settled in a small town nestled in the mountains on the South Island called Queenstown.

Queenstown was alive with opportunities and possibilities. I began playing in local bars and quickly became part of the local music scene. Then my love for photography started to develop. I was lucky enough to get a job as a photographer (with no experience) on a small steam boat. Every day I would take photos of the happy people aboard the boat and I decided that what ever jobs I would do in the future could only be creative ones.

Whilst I was in Queenstown I decided to give snowboarding a go. After breaking my wrist (thank-fully my left) I decided to pimp up my snowboard with nothing but spray paints and a free handed sharpie design. After posting a photo of my newly designed snowboard onto social media, it soon spiralled out of control after it was featured by an online snowboarding magazine.
This is when I bought my iPad Pro and really started to get serious about designing, and photog-raphy.

After 2 years, 7 months and 24 days in New Zealand I decided it was about time to get going and explore something new so I headed to Thailand with my brand new camera and iPad and I decided to start writing a blog.

Thailand was a great place to practice with my new camera and shortly after my adventures here I decided to take a year in Australia to earn some money and focus on my blog. After writing a few blog posts (that nobody read) I realised I needed to use a social media platform to create a com-munity of people who might like to read my blog. This is when I became even more serious about photography. I dedicated 45 minutes every day to creating content for my instagram account and in one year had over 10k people following my journey. Travelling Australia wasn’t easy as my part-ner and I (who I met in New Zealand) worked on farms and slept in the boot of our car. We drove 19,000 around the coast and through the outback.

After our adventures down under we landed back in Thailand, stayed at a 5 star hotel in exchange for photos and instagram adverts, took many more photos and then returned home for some quality family time.

So that’s it really, my creative life story.

I would love to inspire others to get out into the world, explore, find yourself, lose yourself and become yourself.






ollie richings
creative star

tasha clarke
creative star

I have been completely in awe of the bridal fashion industry since my very first Barbie doll age 3 years old, but I didn’t understand that it was my passion until I was actually 18.

Whilst studying for my A-levels I made friends with a girl whose mum owned a bridal shop, I had the opportunity to model in some of their fashion shows, then one day I volunteered as a Saturday girl which led to me having a Saturday job there. By the end of my first shift I knew my life had changed, and that my passion in Bridal and was to become my career.

I can’t explain the feeling, other than a sudden electrifying awakening, a new perspective of what my life could be. It was incredibly overwhelming. With every bride that I helped to find their dream dress, the more I knew in my heart that this was where I belonged. One of the things I loved about the process was helping the bride accessorise, and personalise her style.

By the time I had finished my A-Levels in graphic Design, Media Studies and Photography, I realised whilst I had enjoyed my education, my career had been carved out in my work ex-perience. And it was from here I started to educate myself in the art of dressmaking and started a foundation degree in textiles.

Unlike my class mates who had already learnt the skills required for this course, I had to play catch up and teach myself. This I feel did gave me a lack of confidence, and I felt afraid to make a dress from scratch, however I used this disadvantage to concentrate on recon-struction, and spent my time unpicking and redesigning existing wedding dresses.

After I passed my course, my family relocated from Devon so I had to leave my Saturday job. I started a new job in a bridal shop but I didn’t enjoy this experience as much as I had previously, and didn’t find the job as fulfilling as I knew it could be.

As I enjoyed working in retail and fashion I started working in H&M. For me it felt like my version of university, I made lifelong friends, worked hard, and I was being prepped to be-come a department manager. This potential promotion, whilst exciting for me just didn’t feel right. I had a lot of self-doubt and disbelief in myself, and whilst I liked the safety of the job, I missed bridal more than anything. I set myself a goal to pass my driving test and get my first car, that way I could travel outside of Yeovil and find a way to get back on my bridal path.

I discovered Bridal Reloved on Facebook and immediately fell in love with it. I told all my friends and family about it, and boasted that whatever happens one day I was going to work there. After a week of having my new car, I drove to Dorchester on my day off. I walked into the boutique and said “Do you have any jobs going at all? Full time, Part time, Saturday girl, volunteering, cleaner, or let me just stand in the corner….. anything?” Unfortunately, there were no jobs, however, they did need a model for a fashion show the following week and asked if I’d be up for it. I couldn’t say yes fast enough! This was my chance to make a good impression and I was taking it.

It was a great day, at the end of the show I was on a complete high, I had the bridal buzz back, I had loved it. Kate the owner of the business asked me if I’d had a good day, and said “That’s the interview done, when can you start?!” it was the best thing anyone had ever said to me.

I started part time as Kate created a job for me just over a month later. All my friends told me how inspiring I was that I was going for my dreams, it felt mazing to hear and I proved to myself that I can do it.

Working in Bridal Reloved was unlike my other bridal experiences. There was so much more to do than just sell dresses and tidy the shop in between appointments. This job was crea-tive. As well as growing my expertise in the bridal industry, i.e styles designer and trends. I was given the opportunity to take on more responsibility, including marketing and admin. I found this part of the job challenging, but between the team, we came up with solutions and remedies to make sure the jobs were done (we write a lot of lists).
With this extra responsibility came a full-time position, so I said goodbye to my H&M days.

Since I started at Bridal Reloved my life has become so much more than I ever imagined it could be at this age.

I am now the lead Bridal Consultant for Bridal Reloved Dorchester, I assist in the marketing and co-ordination for the franchise head office next door (Bridal Reloved has 14 shops in the UK). I have also travelled to some of the other stores around the UK to cover for holidays.

At the Christmas party, I’d had enough bucks fizz to pluck up the courage to show my boss one of my drawings. I’d been designing wedding dresses since I could hold a pencil, and I finally felt confident enough to share my drawings with my boss and my colleagues. My boss’s exact words were “well one things for sure, you won’t be a bridal consultant forever. You’re going to be a famous designer one day”. And the rest is history………..

Since that conversation:
•I have been altering dresses in store and playing with fabrics and growing my technical skill set.
•Bridal Reloved set me up with a mentor, her name is Terry Fox (and her mentor was Em-manuelle-Princess Diana’s wedding dress designer). She is a world-famous award winning bridal designer, and now I call her a friend.
•I have taken on my first ever commission which will be completed for my clients wedding in July 2019. This has been the scariest challenge I’ve taken on, but I meet with Terry regu-larly and work through every stage.
•Kate and I are in the early stages of starting our own bridal brand with me as the creative designer, also launching in 2019! This will be the first collection of designs by Natasha Clarke.

My goal is to be a bridal fashion designer, I am well and truly on that road. I need to learn everything I need to know to become the best designer I can, and whist I don’t want to phys-ically create the gowns I design as this is always been where my insecurities and barriers are, I do know that I need to learn the trade. That way I can be respectful of the process and understand every aspect of the development of a gown.

In January 2019 I will be assisting Terry on her bridal workshops and helping her help others whist at the same time growing my own expertise.

So much has changed in the last 2 years, before that for a very long time I felt I wasn’t smart enough, good enough, creative enough, or even deserve to be given the opportunities. The best thing iv done is stop listening to that negative voice in my head and start listening to my peers who see the potential in me and what I am worth. I have surrounded myself with an amazing support system, even this time last year I would not have believed it if I told myself how much I have achieved in such a short space of time. And this is just the begin-ning.

avec uk
star employer

Avec UK is a leading partner for producing craft,
hobby, stationery, gift and party collections. Their
focus is on creating a synergistic partnership with
their customers. With expertise in sourcing, ethical
compliance, product development, packaging and
design as well as close working relationships with
some of the world’s leading licensed brands.

Star employer

Intergage are a B2B Growth Marketing Agency, who specialise in growing businesses through a strategic approach to lead gen, customer acquisition, and client retention. They are currently a 28 strong team made up of self-starters, graduates, apprentices and grizzled business veterans. They’re now among the largest and respected growth  marketing agencies in the south.

protect line
star employer

Protect Line was founded by husband and wife team David & Jo Brewer in 2010, Protect Line’s mission is to reduce the UK’s life insurance deficit, getting more families protected financially should the unthinkable happen. One of the UK’s largest brokers and currently ranked #1 Life Insurance Broker on independent customer review websites.

leah jack
inspirational star

Panic Attacks. Anxiety. Stress. Let no one tell you it’s not real. Don’t let anybody tell you ‘you are too much’. You are not! You just don’t know how to control it. Its all very uncontrollable to begin with. After the bullying and all my friends turning against me and the emotional trauma of my fami-ly break up and attempting to let myself float and die through not eating, I am okay. You do get better and let me tell you it takes courage that you already know you have. It’s just about using it to the best of your ability with help and knowledge given to you along the way. The first panic I had was at school.. It felt like my lungs had been put in a washing machine, sitting on the floor because I’d lost the feel in my legs, as if they’d vanished from my person, the pain in my chest from hyper-ventilating, the headache, the sick feeling, the fear of trauma in my eyes that it wasn’t going to end. Even though, everything is temporary.

Every single day in my final school year, I had an anxiety attack. Causing the attention I was trying to fight off but my brain made me guilty for wanting it at the same time. The medical officer, Miss Irish, saved my life . Five minutes of her time listening to me tell her I felt extremely low and was making myself throw up was one step towards getting better. My mum found out and I was pleased, I was scared to tell her because she did the same thing. In all of this, I’d made habits for my body: panic; stress; cry; throw up. It was a never ending circle of absolute ridicule. I let my thoughts flood me. The worst was that the thoughts were from dying to having sex with a random stranger. I knew it wasn’t me who wanted to think about that at all. I started to believe I was two people and that everything was a figure of my imagination. This is what my anxiety played on be-cause that meant the panic attacks could last for hours because it didn’t matter that I was having one. Nothing mattered because nothing was real. This brought on the suicidal thoughts; jumping in front of a train; drowning in the bath. Reminds me of the worst panic attack I had where it lasted four hours at least of me not being able to breathe without the fan on and being carried to the toi-let in my underwear. I couldn’t stop the thoughts because I didn’t know how and that’s where my guidance came in. My mum was extremely knowledgable and still is about all of this. But it wasn’t enough attention for that part of my brain telling me that’s what I waned even tho I didn’t. Not only that but spiritually I was traumatised by a spirit I believe called Lucy, they said it was probably a version of my anxiety but i could see her and hear her. She was nasty to me; she’d tell me I was ugly and fat, that I shouldn’t be alive, that I needed to be less attention seeking. And afterwards she would make me “cut“. And this was a at parties, I came out the toilets bleeding from my arms because I’d cut myself unconsciously. Three times she told me to “cut “ and I did it like I wasn’t in control of me. I felt like I was sat watching someone all the time. That feeling of being stuck behind a glass window and watching your body talk without thinking. I thought I was abnormal and de-ranged. Lucy would sit next to me during my GCSEs and tell me I needed to make a fuss, that I couldn’t breathe and that I needed everyone to see me. I also sat by myself because I thought it would help me but it didn’t make a difference.

I ran every day. Just because the voice in my head would force me to. The thoughts got so bad, it made me picture seeing dead kids on my runs; the pavements; the table at school; anywhere.
Help was what’s I was receiving but I needed to start unsinkable the skills I was getting taught by my mum and my family, friends, school, three therapists. And strangers. My mum got a call from a different stranger each day when I was going to college and still poorly saying I was having a panic attack and no one could talk or get through to me that I was on the earth. One time I even made a train late on its way to London because of my anxiety of the train. It was just finding problems with everything I’d mastered as a skill. The emotional baggage I was putting on everyone, it was so kill-ing emotionally and I was hurting a lot of people and I lot a lot of friends but because they couldn’t bare to see me so ill and nothing they ever did showed good enough for me. I wasn’t making big vast improvements because I didn’t realise thoughts are made of nothing and that they do not mean anything. They don’t materialise. To try and understand different strategies is so important. I know it’s hard. But if we have the power to start to think something we have the power to stop the thoughts too.

Now I started using all the strategies I got from needing the help. I am proud of all I have become. I don’t have panic attacks every day, I can’t even remember the last time I had one. Knowing the signs is important but you need to actually know what they are and what to do. You don’t actually need to know what they’ll do because that will block you from doing it by triggering you. You don’t want that even if that voice is saying you do.

I know you understand what I mean.

I believe anyone can develop themselves if they believe they can. Everything has been powered by thought and we must understand our amount of control we have over own situations so we do not resort to our triggers anymore. So we can be ourselves without expecting more from others.
I learnt how to be myself and how to motivate me and that’s why you need as much as me and we are not alone. Feeling behind the glass window you will feel alone but I can assure you the reason why you have anxiety in the first place is because you needed to fight yourself in order to over-come, grow an blossom into te beautiful person you are and can be. Stop the struggle and start the fighting so that you can inspire others to keep trying. You will never ever know unless you try. I will give you all the knowledge I have just to give you the willpower to keep going. You don’t think I wanted to give up, I fought myself physically not to. I had my own strategies to make sure I didn’t keep walking off the edge onto the railway track, my best friend had to physically save me from drowning myself at the bath that I ran ready to float. You are your own solution which means you are worth more than nothing. Take my knowledge to help yourself; any resource you can get; have it. You can save yourself if you do without expectations for ourself. Have me as your evidence. I am that girl who could have given up and let go, destroyed my family and left but no. I am a living, happy, confident and proud woman, who:is grateful to be alive each day; owns a dance school; goes to college; doesn’t have more than 1 panic attack every 6 months; doesn’t have intrusive thoughts; is a cheerleader; is respected; can give to others; is proud and will continue to develop who she is and who she will become. That is me. And you need you right now. Eric Thompson says in Sèvres to Success, “You need to want success as much as you want to be able to breathe” and I can assure you there’s at least 1% of you that’s wants to keep breathing so use that. Work on it. And if not I can give you 100 reasons why you need to.

I live with my Mum, Nanny, sister Tia and brother Cam, with two dogs in a five shallow bungalow in Broadstone. I’m a cheerleader, professional dancer, college student and I own a dance company. I have been asked to be a peer support worker for people who need the same push and motivation as I received. Thank you to my beautiful family I am so grateful for and who stuck by irrational me and myself the whole time. Thank you to my best friend and my sister Tia for showing me, no mat-ter what age you are, you can be wise and courageous; and for showing me what an actual sister is. Thank you to my Mum who is the kindest and most empowering human being on this earth; I love her incredibly and will continue to make her proud. They need rewarding to for the work that they did with me emotionally, mentally and physically. Thank you to Bev, Sara Jayne and Julie, Michelle and Marian for teaching me how I can cope and doing way beyond the requirements to one of the most emotional jobs. I will never not be grateful for every single moment with you all.
Miss Irish, I wouldn’t have been better without you speaking up for me. You are the beginning to my story of development and my journey to get better. You are family.
Thank you to any stranger who helped me in woe, you all will not be thought of as strangers as you have all developed and cared for me more than yourself in a moment which is truly admirable.

We have to show evidence that people get better and opinion doesn’t count. It is the actual physi-cal proof that people take into consideration. I am writing this in Paris, where I am staying with a family I love, knowing I flew here alone and will be flying back alone tomorrow. I used to have pan-ic attacks in every place of transport and I wasn’t even alone. That’s improvement and I’m proud to say I did it.

charles michael duke
inspirational star

So my story is a bit of a complicated one, I was born with a health condition called Cystic Fibrosis which is a genetic condition that affects mainly the lungs and digestive system, but everything else as well. It causes our mucus to be much thicker and stickier than that of people without CF and because of this we are more prone to catching infection, and when we do catch it, it’s very difficult to get rid of it. The constant infection means I’ve spent a lot of my life in hospital, with around one 2-week admission a year up until I was about 17 to receive intravenous antibiotics.

However, when I was 17 my health started to go really downhill with more frequent admissions to hospital, feeling more ill, and unable to do the things that I love. By the time I was 18 the frequent chest infections had caused so much damage to my lungs that I now was in need of a double lung transplant, and in April 2015 I was listed on the active waiting list for a double lung transplant. When I was listed I was told the average waiting time was 12-18 months, but they reckoned for me I would only wait about 9 months because the things I needed to match the donor on weren’t very common meaning I was in competition with less patients who were also waiting. However, it was 3 ½ years later that I finally received my double lung transplant, in May 2018.

Since I was born I’ve been performing in musicals on stage, and loved doing it. But as you can imagine when my health went downhill I had to stop performing, the turning point for me realising and accepting this was when my lung collapsed on stage during a Christmas show and I was admitted to hospital on Christmas Eve 2014. After that happened I knew that a transplant was something that I needed and wanted if I was going to carry on doing the things I loved.

Whilst I was on the list I wasn’t well enough to perform, so I turned to YouTube where I wrote scripts and made sort of self-help videos for other people with CF and Chronic illness’, these were very popular and to date I’ve received over 100,000 views on YouTube. This also allowed me to appear on programmes such as ITV’s Loose Women, BBC Sunday Morning Live, ITV Meridian, BBC Ouch, BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, and many more including writing for the I Newspaper, to talk about what I do and my life 

As well as all of this I stayed involved with the behind the scenes of theatre, by finding myself doing photography and videography for several local am-dram and professional companies, which led me to starting my own Marketing and Multi-Media Business last year which specialises in Theatre.

After receiving my double lung transplant in May this year, I knew that I wanted to get back on the stage this Christmas, and it just so happened that a local company called Highlife Charity Players were staging a production of Cinderella which I wrote whilst on the transplant list with a friend of mine. So I auditioned and got the part of Buttons! 6 months’ post-transplant and I’ll be returning to the stage in a script I wrote myself.

I think my story is about achieving you goals no matter what obstacles are placed in front of you.

Hopefully this explains basically my story and what I’ve been through, and if I get shortlisted I look forward to talking to you about it some more. Please let me know if you have any questions.

alex bertie
inspirational star

Alex Bertie is a young transgender YouTuber from rural Dorset. While still attending school at just 14 he started making videos on sexuality and gender identity, continuing to do so today with week-ly uploads. To this day, he has reached over 300,000 subscribers. His work has been picked up by organisations such as Childline and Stonewall, and has been recognised by the Independent, Gay Times, Radio 1 Newsbeat and The One Show.

His book – Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard – is a brave and ground-breaking first-hand account of his life, struggles and victories as a transgender teen. It was published by Wren & Rook on No-vember 2nd, 2017.

Alex is now 23 years old and along side working full time at a school in Bournemouth as a Graphic Designer, continues to make videos educating the public about transgender issues while trying to help others like him along the way. He is in the process of launching a charity, has just won the Lov-ie Creator for Change award 2018 and is on track to writing his second book.

This is an example of my work on YouTube:

My book can be found here:

charlotte willis
inspirational star

I was born to two parents, who through their own trauma and mental illnesses, turned to a lifetime of addiction. My early childhood was turbulent and unstable, with multiple homes and schools.
When I was around 6, my dad went to rehab and I lived with my nan. My dad was clean from drugs and alcohol for 10yrs and raised me. Unfortunately, my mum never really got much clean time and I lost contact with her over the years.

My later childhood was relatively stable, I did well at school and enjoyed family life with my step mum and step brother. However, after this relationship ended, my dad relapsed and started drinking and using drugs at an increasingly heavy rate. I still managed to complete my GCSEs to a high standard and started A levels at college.

One day, outside of college, I saw an ambulance and some commotion with a lady and some paramedics. Being a nosy 16yr old, I looked closer to see what was occurring. Stopping dead in my tracks, I realised, the now grey-haired lady fighting with the ambulance crew, was my mum. I hadn’t seen her in many years and I never really questioned what happened to her, but it was clear that her addiction and mental illnesses had consumed her, and she had become homeless on the streets of Bournemouth.

At home, the issues with my dad started to take their toll on me and I started developing mental health problems of my own. After some counselling, I realised it was no longer viable for me to live at home with my dad, so I went to the town hall and asked for help. I was shocked at the speed of which I was helped and within a couple of months I was housed in a hostel by BCHA. I was 17 at the time.
I continued to attend college in the week and work at the weekends. During this time I had also started to see my mum on the streets a lot more. I would walk past her as she sat begging. I wouldn’t stop to talk to her, I didn’t know how to approach the situation or what I would say to her. I would go by unnoticed as I had grown up a lot since the last time she had seen me.

I was now 18 and so I had started going out clubbing with friends. I had very supportive friends who would help me deal with the problems I faced. I had told one of my friends that my mum was homeless around the streets of Bournemouth. These were the only details I’d given him but I remember one night he dragged me outside the club and told me, “there’s someone you need to meet,” and I when I got outside, I saw my mum sat there waiting for me.

Initially I was angry at my friend for forcing me to reunite with her in this way but now I’ll be forever grateful to him, for allowing me to have a relationship with her. From then on I would stop and say hello to her when I walked past. I would hug her and tell her I loved her. I’d tell her what was happening in my life and she would send me cards to congratulate me on my new flat and my A level results.

I continued with work and college but my mental health further declined. I was missing college and suffering with crippling social anxiety and depression. I was bullied at college and was becoming increasingly isolated. My dad has always supported me and been proud of my achievements, despite suffering from his own issues. He arranged a meeting with the college and it was agreed that I should leave. I was disappointed as I’d always been set on going to University but the pressure of exams and studying was relieved. I got a second job and things were working out.

However, 4 days after my 19th birthday, I received the news that my mum had died. She had taken her own life on the streets. Less than a year after being reunited, we were apart again. Due to the circumstances of my mum’s death, I also had to identify her body. At the time I also found out that my nan, who I had lived with when I was younger, had died 4 months previous, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. I was now faced with planning a double funeral and my life had been shaken up. My mum also had another daughter, my half-sister. We had been estranged since we were young and I now had to find a way to inform her that both her nan and mum had died and invite her to the funeral.
The grief led to my mental health declining further and I left both of my jobs. However, these events also gave me a new perspective on life and I took the time out of work to figure out what I wanted to do.

From the advice of a support worker, I attended BCHA’s confidence programmes. They helped me enormously and I went on to complete a mentoring qualification and volunteered to support people through the courses I had completed. From there, I realised I wanted a career helping people, something that gave meaning to my life and something which made advantage of my life experience and empathy.
I was working in childcare for a couple of years before I eventually found my way to University at age 23.

Whilst studying, I was missing the fulfilment I gained from working so I found a volunteer placement at The Big Issue. Serendipitously, Claire from Street Support then contacted me and offered me the opportunity to work with Street Support. I was so excited about the opportunity as I suddenly felt as though all the pieces had fallen into place and I had found the meaning I was looking for.

The Street Support initiative is a simply genius solution to combating homelessness and I am extremely passionate about seeing this project succeed. I have been contributing to this by spreading the word through social media, attending important meeting, contacting organisations to come on board and helping out with admin. I have also been combining my English degree with Street Support and have been blogging. I was given the opportunity to share my story through the website (which can be found here:
Presently we are working on the Christmas campaigns and gaining publicity for our fundraising page, Change for Good, which I helped design the logo for. Also, I have a supportive group of friends who have come up with the idea for a 24hr Dungeons and Dragons fundraiser! We are in the process of planning this and will donate all the proceeds to Change for Good.

I am excited for the future working with Street Support and I know I will help save the lives of people like my mum.

A story Charlotte published on the Street Support Website:
Suicide and Homelessness
It was World Suicide Prevention Day last week and I was inspired to share my story. I am not one for displaying my feelings publicly, so it has been hard for me to publish this. On Saturday 13th April 2013 I was working at my local supermarket selling newspapers and nibbles. I must have sold so many of those newspapers…

After finishing my shift, my dad phoned me saying he and my nan were going to pick me up. (My nan never picks me up). The date was 5 days after my 19th birthday and all I thought was, “they must have a late birthday surprise for me,” so I skipped into the car.
The next thing I remember is them all sitting me down in my dad’s flat and looking at me and I started to clock that something wasn’t right. They looked awkward and anxious as they continued to eye me; then my nan finally said, “Clare…,” and I simply replied, “she’s dead, isn’t she?”

Then my nan and dad were bickering about this damn newspaper and whether to show me or not and I grabbed it and the headline read: ‘Body Found in Street,’ with a picture, a picture of her, of her body… of my mum.
All morning, I had been selling those papers, informing every one of my mum’s death, before I even knew myself. The thing is, she wasn’t found in the ‘street’ at all. She had taken herself to a secluded spot to live out her final moments; a place away from prying eyes but clearly not from predatory paparazzi.

It now makes me wonder if the press would have treated this story differently if my mum hadn’t been homeless. Did they assume she had no family to inform because she was homeless? Did they assume she didn’t deserve dignity because she was homeless?
It was the day of the viewing and up until this point I believed she had died from the lifestyle she’d been living.

Homeless women, on average, die at the age of 43. My mum was 48, so I had expected that she wasn’t going to make it much longer. She had even told me she wouldn’t. I remember the smell of formaldehyde, masked with cheap air freshener, as I gave the nod to confirm it was really her.

After the screaming, crying and terror was over the coroner said, “would you like to see the note?”
“What note?” I replied. I had no idea there was one. The coroner handed me a short note, scribbled on a scrap piece of paper, which read: “pain is 2 much now – so sorry – luv u. M.”

I was overcome with a million new emotions. A loss by suicide leaves so many unanswered questions. It leaves you imagining scenarios in which you save your loved one. It leaves you with all the conversations you missed and the hugs you didn’t give. It leaves you with all the, “what ifs.”
I looked back at my mum again and thought the cliché: “at least she’s at peace now,” and I left.
Over 4 weeks later, the funeral finally arrived. The homeless community turned up in their masses, some arrived in a mini bus, some walked miles with their heavy rucksacks, some paid for taxis with their little funds, some brought flowers, some painted paintings; all were selfless. What I learnt that day was that these guys made a family of their own out there and that they love, protect and share with one another. They told me a saying that they have on the streets; “it’s the love that keeps us warm.”

Months later, at the inquest, I realised my mum had been failed. She had been failed by mental health services who refused to treat her mental health conditions if she was an addict. She had been failed by the addiction services who refused to see her addiction as an antidote to her mental illness. She had been failed by the medical professionals who said her “hands were turning black” but still released her back onto the streets.
Was her voice not heard because she was homeless? Was she deemed not worth saving because she was homeless? I wonder, would you or I have received the same reaction if we asked for help?

More needs to be done to help the forgotten people of OUR society. Homeless people are 6x more likely to take their own life than the rest of the general population. This statistic alone should be enough to inspire change.
This is why I now work for Street Support, who are bringing together homeless organisations and charities, to ensure people get heard and don’t slip through the cracks of society. Instead of passing blame from organisation to organisation, we pass advice, hope and compassion. I truly believe this holistic approach will save lives.

In loving memory of Clare Willis – 12/04/2013. I love you. I wish you could have stayed.

thomas douris
inspirational star

Wow, where do I start? Firstly, what an honour to be considered for this amazing award, it was such a lovely surprise seeing the email in my inbox and the wonderful words my girlfriend wrote about me. So, since receiving the nomination from my amazingly beautiful and kind girlfriend, I’ve had a little sit down and think about the timeline of my life. And boy, what a journey it’s been! When i was born, I was apparently a very distressed baby, always crying and screaming and a generally frustrated young boy for what must of seemed like nothing to the untrained eye. However, to my mother, she knew deep down something wasn’t quite right. She took me to the doctors on multiple occasions, and was forever receiving the same response, “He’s fine, he’s just a noisy baby.” however, this was more than ‘just a noisy baby’, as you’ll soon find out. Let me first explain how the doctors called my mum ‘crazy’ for thinking i had something wrong with me, and that she was the one who needed help, not me. I can’t imagine how she felt after going to a new doctor in Bristol for a second opinion, who after 2 minutes of assessing me said those 4 life changing words, “Your son has Arthritis”. To make matters worse, it was in every joint of my body, from my toes up to my neck. To be told by the previous doctors that she was crazy for worrying about me still upsets and angers me to this day. Although this must of been the most horrendous experience for my family, at least now they had a diagnosis where i could receive some assistance.

Growing up with arthritis, to put it bluntly, sucked. As a youngster i still took part in activities at school such as running and football, i wanted to be ‘normal’. I didn’t understand why i was bed bound in pain after playing sport with my friends, why my knees were at least twice the size of my classmates, why did i have to wear finger splints to straighten out my fingers, why they could all cross their legs in assembly but i couldn’t, my body didn’t let me. Why couldn’t i concentrate in class, where did i have to take medication that made me feel angry or miss lessons to go to hospital appointments? I always felt different, but that changed a little when i was 8 years old. One hospital appointment, after more assessments, i was told news that would change my life, but this time for the better. My arthritis had become inactive, it had ‘burnt out’ as my doctor said, with a good chance of it not coming back. I remember not really understanding the meaning of the news, i was still young, i hadn’t experienced life without illness, it was an odd and daunting feeling.

Despite the arthritis burning out, the effects of 8 years’ worth of arthritis ensured life would never be ‘normal’ for me. Sport still hurt me when i played, i couldn’t ever be a plumber like my dad, and most of all, i couldn’t concentrate in class due the constant aches in my body. Furthermore, by the time i reached 16 years old, i’d missed around 4 to 5 years worth of education due to hospital appointments and being in too much pain. This has had an effect on my learning to this day, but i wasn’t going to let my personal experiences go to waste, i wanted to help change others lives for the better. After attempting college and realising i wasn’t ready for further education, i started volunteering for my cousins’ company, an arts and crafts centre for adults with learning disabilities.

Everything changed from here, i fell in love with everything i was doing, but most importantly, i finally started to love myself. I was the person i always wanted to be, the volunteering just confirmed that. The changes i was contributing to for these adults was outstanding. Every week they were becoming more independent and together we were creating craft pieces that went into their own art gallery, which was open to public. It was a wonderful experience and led me to my job of 5 years at a care company called Able2Achieve where i assisted young adults to transition into independent living, in most cases, for the first time. My role entailed to assist the service users to become as independent as they feel comfortable with, whilst aiding with their personal hygiene, food preparation, medication and leisure activities. In addition, i was chosen to support a client on one of their activity holidays in Devon called Calvert Trust. This was an opportunity that I’ll never forget. During the 5 years, we held regular fundraisers such as cake sales, where the money generated was spent on the clients ‘wish list’ for any items that they wanted to purchase, but didn’t possess the necessary funds for. This was a great way to have some fun with the service users by baking the cakes, and also provided a great skill of food preparation, and being in a fun working environment by selling the cakes.

Working at Able2Achieve was the best 5 years of my life, however, I should probably add the 2 big events that occurred in my life in amongst these 5 years. When i was 21, i started to feel some discomfort in my hips. Being used to pain and ‘getting by’, I carried on, stupidly. I refused to take any pain medication, I refused to see a doctor, i refused the love of those around me. Besides, i’d had arthritis, i had beat arthritis, i could get over these silly pains in my hips with time. Wrong. And boy how wrong was i. I think i refused help for 2 reasons: 1 – I didn’t want to find out that there was something new wrong with me. 2 – I kind of knew, deep down, that it required serious treatment. After months of screaming in agony, buckling to the floor where my hips locked in pain, not being able to walk 2 minutes without having to stop, i knew i needed to go to the doctor. Let me tell you, the main reason i finally went was because i had started physically crying with pain, i couldn’t tell you a time i’d cried before then. At the doctors, he said i had no cartilage left in my hips, it was just bone on bone. He hadn’t seen something like this on someone so young, no wonder i was in so much pain. He then said i needed hip replacements, but wouldn’t authorise them as i was so young, and then said to me “you’ll have to wait and carry on until you’re in your 40’s until you have a hip replacement.” Into my 40’s??? I needed one, and i needed one now. It wasn’t until i saw the doctor that i will always be thankful for, for the rest of my life. As she was assessing the motion in my hips, it locked, and i screamed in pain and i cried more than i’d ever cried before. It was like a chain reaction, as the doctor then started crying, as did a nurse and my parents.

 It was from this moment that she put my operation as urgent, and my hip was replaced in good time after that. In addition to the pain, i suffered badly with anxiety and depression as a result of the effects of the arthritis. I never opened up to my parents, friends or my girlfriend until just before my first operation. It was one of my most challenging conversations i’ve ever had, but has taught me to not suffer in silence, to speak up more, and that you’re never alone.

During the operation, they broke my femur bone. This meant my recovery was around 6 months due to not being able to weight bare for around 6 weeks. Life was still challenging after recovery, as my other hip was so painful and still waiting to be replaced. Around a year later, replacement number 2 came around, and was much easier. Moreover, my girlfriend who i had met only 2 months before my operation was my rock and motivation. Only 3 months after the operation we left england to go travel South East Asia for 3 months, this was my motivation during rehab.  During my stay in hospital, i received the best care and support from Occupational Therapists which inspired me to want to become one. I wanted to support people like me, share with them my story and show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel sometimes. Now that i was all recovered and ‘fixed’, I felt ready and determined to finally be able to enter back into education without pain.

 During recovery i completed my Level 3 Health and Social Care NVQ which allowed me to apply for an access course at Bournemouth and Poole College. I moved down to Bournemouth to study, i was daunted as i hadn’t been in education for 5 years and struggled when i was. However, i was fixed now, my head was clear, and most of all, and I had a goal that I was going to reach. I became student rep of my class, and worked as a student warden at my accommodation, where i was in charge of the student’s safety when on shift.

 The year was intense, but i did really well and then was accepted into Bournemouth University to study Occupational Therapy. I was always told i was too stupid for university that my concentration always lacked and meant I couldn’t achieve my goals. Well let this be a lesson for yourself Tom of the past, you can do it! You will achieve your dreams, and you’re not stupid, you’re unique, you have a story that no one can take away from you, and you will complete uni and become an awesome Occupational Therapist!

Now then, let’s get back on track. Here i am, a first year OT student, 2 months into the course and loving every second. This year I am the current class rep, where I collect the views of my peers to help with any worries they have, a student ambassador for the uni where I show new students’ round on open days, a school liaison ambassador where I attend local schools and either promote further education to young students, or assist students with their learning. I am the first-year representative for the Occupational Therapy Society, where we organise events and guest speakers for all OT students at Bournemouth uni. This year I work as a student brand ambassador for Tinder, where i give out free products to students on campus and promote the brand. Finally, i am part of the Global Talent Programme at BU, which is designed to help to develop a range of global talent attributes required for future employment.

 I have recently been given the opportunity to become the ‘Co-opted Student Representative’ for the Royal College of Occupational Therapy (RCOT) in the south west. They provide a link between the RCOT and the occupational therapy students at the three universities within the south west (Bournemouth, Plymouth, UWE Bristol). It enables students to have their voices heard and to be acknowledged for their contribution to the profession as they undergo their education. This role would be an honour and such a fantastic opportunity for me at such an early stage of my OT development. This is however still early days, so no confirmation has been made yet.

 Lastly, I really want to make a different to many people’s lives, especially those with arthritis and learning disabilities. I will be running the full Bournemouth Marathon next October, with all the sponsorship money going to Arthritis Research UK. This will be my first ever marathon and although I’m really nervous, I can’t wait to test out my body and prove myself that I can do it! And I hope the sponsorship money makes a difference to even one person’s life. Furthermore, I have a business idea that will hopefully change with lives of so many people who have learning disabilities, and learning difficulties. I don’t want to give too much away but it’s a work in progress, and I hope that one day the plan will be a reality.

Thank you for hearing my story, I apologise for the length but it felt really good to get off of my chest. Thank you for giving people like me a platform to express what we’ve been through and how we are hopefully inspiring others. And thank you for creating this award to give young people like me a better name, to show there are young people who want to make a difference in life.

stephen brewer
technology star

From an early age I have been interested in technology. The interest in technology was re-enforced when I joined Ringwood School aged 11. I had the opportunity to discuss technology with other like-minded students who shared my excitement for the subject. Over my time in main school, I spent a lot of my spare time at home learning about IT systems used in business. I created numerous lab environments to learn about Windows Servers, Linux systems and networking. This learning resulted in me being able to setup Windows domain environments, with group policies and roaming profiles as seen in business networks. I experimented setting up and running Linux servers which ran numerous roles, such as web servers, mail servers, PBX’s and more. 

In later school, I decided networking was my IT topic of choice. To get the knowledge in this area, I purchased a full Cisco lab environment and learnt much of the content in the CCNA course. This covered a variety of topics, such as how to configure routers and switches from the command line, Subnetting, routing protocols, 802.1Q trunking and more. This knowledge has been very use-ful when I joined Comms UK and now working for Protect Line.

During my time at Comms UK, I was given a lot of responsibility over many computer systems. I worked on many interesting projects, one in particular involved setting up new networking equip-ment and servers for a construction company who moved office location. I setup the core net-work infrastructure such as the routers, switches, and patch panels. I was careful to ensure the network was personalised to the customer’s needs. This in involved understanding what services were business critical to them and ensuring these services were prioritised using QoS (Quality of Service).

Other big projects at Comms UK were:
-Migrated many of our customers away from ageing on-prem Exchange servers to Office 365.
-Implemented a high-speed SAN (Storage Area Network) for one of our larger customers which needed a big storage cluster for their critical data.
– Set up a new controller-based wireless system.
– Helped to design and implement infrastructure for new VoIP telephone systems.
– Provided scheduled weekly site visits to provide IT support to end users for numerous customers.

During my time at Protect Line some of my big projects have been:
-Provided face-to-face IT support and telephone support to end users.
– Replaced an ageing Netgear based network with new Juniper equipment. I created the configura-tion, and tested it in a lab environment before successfully rolling it out. This network was then tailored to Protect Line to provide the best user experience for all departments in the business, utilising the on-board features and capabilities of the devices.
– Built a new and improved wireless network for our office units in Poole and London.
– Replaced our company antiviral software with another product which has increased our security stance substantially.
– Built a brand-new monitoring system which allows us to monitor all our critical servers to a very granular level.
– Implemented many security improvements for servers and infrastructure.
– Played a big part in building a new VoIP based telephone system for the company.

There have been many other projects but these stand out for me.
I’m hoping this journey will inspire others, firstly because it shows advanced skills can be learnt by self-tutoring, without going through the traditional university route. Secondly, with enough time and effort put into learning new things, the sky is the limit.

charlton santana
technology star

Hi my name is Charlton Santana. I first found my passion for building a business back when I was 12. First up, CS Carwash. I say mobile, though what I really mean is my two legs, a bucket, soapy water, a sponge, some badly designed word art leaflets with our home phone number on it. I even tried to convince my mum to answer the phone with “CS Carwash”. I then plugged in my computer I got for Christmas, went to search how to make a website and off I went.
Who knew trying to start a car washing business at 12 would have led me to a programming career. Fast forward three years and I’m ready to release my first game ‘Olympic Torch Relay’, I got three downloads in the first day *cough* mum, dad and my auntie *cough*. 24 hours later I sadly found that the word “Olympic” was a trademark. I guess that’s that then.
Halfway through sixth form, I thought I’d leave education and go get a ‘real’ job, a web developer at a local online magazine company. Two development jobs later nearing the age of 19 about to leave and become my own boss I found myself about to become a Dad. It was also then when I was headhunted to go to 3 Sided Cube (Voted one of the best app agencies in the UK).
The urge to start a business kept growing on me and while working at 3 Sided Cube I spotted a niche that really needed a company to step in and fulfil. A tech agency that specialises in chatbots.
Santana Studios Ltd was born. 6 months later I took on my first employee to help me build and launch a product called Feebi.
Feebi is a software as a service based restaurant chatbot. A restauranter can sign up, fill in a few details and within minutes have their very own AI chatbot dealing with all their online enquires. A month and a half after it’s official launch, Feebi is currently in use by 5 restaurants, 4 of them being in Bournemouth. We have had interest from a major restaurant chain looking to use Feebi in the new year and plans to resell Feebi through ResDiary – A booking management system who has over 9 thousand restaurants signed up to their platform.
Our plan with Feebi is to specialise in more than just one industry. Next year we will be starting a partnership with My PT Hub to provide a Feebi chatbot to their PT’s and Gyms who have active clients such as Virgin Active, Pure Gym & the Gym Group and other 1.2 Million monthly active users of their PT management system.
Roll on 2019.

charlie davies
technology star

As for my story I have been interested in engineering since a young age, whether this is designing and building things out of recycled materials or working on classic cars with my father. I seemed to have a natural talent towards engineering but during school I never felt like my potential highlighted. It wasn’t until I started an engineering course at Bournemouth and Poole College I realised how much I enjoyed it and how good at it I was. After finishing that I got an apprenticeship at CCWW which is where I have been for the past four years. At CCWW my limits are constantly being tested which for me is a big motivation as I enjoy challenges.
I am currently working on car tracking telematics systems and also my college/uni work, this can keep me busy in both my work and home life’s.
If any part of my story was going to inspire anyone I would hope it is that young people don’t need to be great at school in order to have a successful future. It wasn’t until after school that I really found out what I enjoyed doing in life.

What his company say about him…

Charlie’s hard work, focus and dedication is second to none. He has been a valuable member of our team since October 2014. He started his employment as an Electronics Engineering Apprenticeship. He has grown from strength to strength developing and learning new skills every day. He has achieved NVQ 2 Diploma in Performing Engineering Operations, BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Engineering and Level 3 Extended NVQ diploma in Electronic Engineering. Charlie has recently started studying a 5 year course for his degree. Nothing is too much trouble and he is always keen to learn and take on new challenges.
The telematics product that Charlie was largely involved in for our client ‘Masternaut’ was awarded Commercial Insurance Initiative of the Year Award 2017.