“Before the programme I was a completely different person. I had friends but they were bad friends, going out drinking and taking drugs. I didn’t really care about school and I’d just stay in my room a lot. I didn’t know how to express myself and I was angry and hurt as I felt no one listened to me. The programme got me at the right time when I was ready to change.” – Paige, aged 16

Paige, from Southend, was heading down the wrong track, in with the ‘wrong’ crowd and not paying much attention to her education. Fast-forward a year and a half and things are not as Paige had expected. Now aged 16, Paige has been presented with UK charity Youth at Risk’s Leadbetter Award for 2015 for her outstanding achievements and new approach to life.

Paige owes her transformation in part to the Southend Girls’ Project – an intensive personal development programme provided by Youth at Risk and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. The project, which ran from November 2014 to May 2015, focused on transforming the mind sets of local young women, confronting their destructive attitudes and overcoming challenges that were holding them back in life.

Since completing the project and turning her life around, Paige has gone on to achieve seven GCSEs and is now studying A Levels in biology, chemistry, physics and forensic science at Southend College. 18 months ago Paige was a world away from where she is now, and her future is bright, with Paige working hard to achieve her goal of becoming a midwife.

Presented with her award by the Mayor of Southend, she added: “It was a shock when I got told I’d won the award. I didn’t think I’d achieve anything like this − I was really surprised.

“The programme and the people on it have really changed my life. I now know that I’m capable of more than I think and that if I set a goal and work for it I can do it.”

For more information about Youth At Risk, the work they do, the opportunities they provide and how you can support them please visit their website.

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Nisha Kotecha is the Founder of Good News Shared. Having worked and volunteered for charities in the UK for over 10 years, Nisha is on a mission to highlight how amazing charities are.