Royal award for Banbridge teen

A YOUNG man from Banbridge, who has turned his life around with help from youth charity The Prince’s Trust, was crowned winner at a royal awards ceremony last Wednesday

Gary Harrison, 17, won The Educational Achiever of the Year Award at The Prince’s Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards held at The Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey. The award recognises young people who have overcome barriers and developed new skills to improve their future prospects through re-engagement with education.

Gary’s behaviour in secondary school started badly and continued to deteriorate. By Year Nine his attitude towards students and staff had become extremely volatile. Considered a highly disruptive pupil, he had difficulty forming friendships and became extremely isolated.

Periods of exclusion followed, and Gary’s chances of remaining in mainstream education were put seriously in doubt.

An opportunity to get his life on track appeared when he joined The Prince’s Trust xl club, a scheme providing support for young people at risk of exclusion from school. Although withdrawn and quiet at the start, Gary quickly discovered an aptitude for the practical elements of the programme as he began to actively participate.

With increased confidence, his natural leadership ability came to the fore. Gary regularly encouraged other to do their best and was always ready to help.

His growing ability to manage his emotions was a notable personal achievement. Support from The Trust enabled him to put strategies in place to deal with negative behaviour before it occurred.

Gary’s transformation on the programme saw him go from an explosive, confrontational individual to a popular student whom other looked to for advice and leadership.

During his time at the xl club, Gary, 17, gained entry level qualifications in digital media and ceramics alongside his Prince’s Trust certificates in personal development and teamwork. He has since gained essential skills qualifications in maths and literacy.

Gary is now a cheerful, confident young man who is positive about his prospects. Having started a mini enterprise selling spare cars parts with one of his friends, Gary is currently completing a full time course at Southern Regional College.

“I am sure I would still be causing trouble if it were not for The Prince’s Trust,” said Gary. “By enabling me to control my emotions they have demonstrated how I can achieve whatever I want in life.

“I wasn’t a very good pupil but The Prince’s Trust showed me how to be a good leader.”

After the event Gary said, “I am so proud to have won this award. When I signed up for the xl programme, I never dreamed I would be standing here today accepting this trophy in front of all these people. I’m really looking forward now to what the future might hold for me.”

The Prince’s Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards honour the achievements of disadvantaged young people supported by The Trust who have succeeded against the odds, improved their chances in life and had a positive impact on their local community.