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Prince's Trust honours Northern Ireland young people who defied odds to turn lives around

By Allan Preston

Published 02/11/2016

At the awards last night (from left) Ryan Morris (Young Achiever Award), Marianne Blaney (Enterprise Award), Ryan Lennon (Rising Star Award), Mark Dougan (Director of Prince’s Trust), John Devlin (Young Ambassador Award), Shannon Connor (Education Award), Gearoidin Barr (Breakthrough Award); and Aimee Kelly from Sacred Heart College (Community Impact Award)
At the awards last night (from left) Ryan Morris (Young Achiever Award), Marianne Blaney (Enterprise Award), Ryan Lennon (Rising Star Award), Mark Dougan (Director of Prince’s Trust), John Devlin (Young Ambassador Award), Shannon Connor (Education Award), Gearoidin Barr (Breakthrough Award); and Aimee Kelly from Sacred Heart College (Community Impact Award)

Young people in Northern Ireland who have overcome serious problems in their lives were celebrated last night at the Prince's Trust Celebrate Success Awards.

The glitzy ceremony at Titanic Belfast recognised the remarkable journeys of disadvantaged young people who have triumphed over issues such as homelessness, abuse, drug addiction, depression and unemployment.

"I'm incredibly proud of our young people tonight," said Mark Dougan, director of the Prince's Trust in Northern Ireland.

"When you look behind the figures of people currently unemployed to one person and their story, you begin to realise there's a lot of barriers that have held them back, whether they're single mothers or homeless young people with addiction issues, it's about removing those barriers to help them succeed. The personal stories really keep me going. It's about changing lives for the better."

With the awards enjoying their 13th anniversary in Northern Ireland, Mr Dougan said the Prince's Trust was now helping 6,000 young people a year in Northern Ireland.

Among the seven winners last night was John Devlin (23) from Belfast who took home the award for Young Ambassador of the Year.

Drugs, gangs and crime had made him feel trapped in his own life. The possibility of prison and the suicide of a close friend made him realise he needed to change. After community service in a youth centre and joining the Prince's Trust team programme, he became inspired to follow a career as a youth worker.

Taking home the Breakthrough ward was Gearoidin Barr (23) from Belfast.

The death of her father in her teenage years caused serious problems with her mental health, forcing her to drop out of school and feel so worthless she felt unable to leave her home for a full year.

With help from her family and adult support services, she rebuilt her confidence and is studying for a level 2 BTec in childcare

Ryan Lennon (22) from Portstewart was the winner in the Rising star section. Having spent much of his childhood in care, he developed anger issues and after the death of his best friend found himself constantly in fights.

Leaving school before his GCSEs, he sought escape with drugs and self-harm. After help from the Prince's Trust to get a work placement in a hotel, he's now a married father and works full-time in catering. He is also studying youth work and sees his future helping young people.

Speaking at the ceremony last night, the Education Minister Peter Weir said: "There has been great work done by the Prince's Trust over the last 40 years.

"It just shows the difficulties some young people have had to overcome.

"I think there's a tremendous inspiration out there among the young people who were nominated, they're all winners in my eyes."

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