Two young people who just a few years ago were high risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) were awarded the School Achiever of the Year Award last night for their amazing academic and vocational achievements at an award ceremony hosted by Tomorrow’s People, at the stunning Grange City Hotel in Tower Bridge. The two ThinkForward young people, Atiya Rounaq and Declan Norrie, received the prestigious award from the Countess of Wessex. Both their ThinkForward Coaches, Brad Levy and Darrin Reece also accompanied them on stage for an incredibly proud moment for all.

Atiya and Declan were identified as having a high risk of leaving school at age 16 with no qualifications or prospects for employment. ThinkForward’s breakthrough programme provides young people with five years of intensive one-to-one support from a highly qualified Progression Coaches. ThinkForward’s Coaches and dedicated employability programme has enabled 96% of participants to progress into higher education, employment or training. The programme currently operates in 14 schools across Islington, Tower Hamlets and Hackney with plans to expand to a new region in the coming year.

After receiving the award, Atiya said: “I want to thank my two lovely Coaches and ThinkForward for helping me become who I am, for helping me change and evolve my ways to become a better person. If it wasn’t for ThinkForward, I wouldn’t have ever overcome most of the things I’ve been through. I’ve always had my coaches there to support me and I know I can rely on them to listen. ThinkForward honestly changed my life for the better!

After receiving the award, Declan said, “Having a coach changed my life and it’s an opportunity I’m so grateful to have had especially after my attitude was so bad and helped me get my award which me and my mum are really proud of.

To read more about Atiya and Declan please see below:

When Declan was just four years old, his father was sent to prison for a drugs-related murder, leaving Declan’s mother to raise him and his two brothers by herself. This affected Declan in an extremely negative way, causing him to develop anger issues which in turn caused him to get sent out of lessons for bad behaviour, which often led to exclusion. He was just not co-operating with anyone in school at all and his future looked bleak. Declan then began working with Darrin, his ThinkForward coach, who looked at the areas he felt Declan needed support with. Over time Darrin began developing a good relationship with Declan becoming a positive male role model, something that Declan lacked and needed in his life.

Fast forward and Declan has now been working with Darrin for 3.5 years and has completely transformed his behaviour and attitude towards his education and future. He gained the necessary five GCSEs and was accepted on a construction apprenticeship which he excelled in, resulting in Declan receiving recognition from the CEO for his enthusiastic work ethic, positive attitude and being an overall role model to other apprentices. Declan is now an apprentice in the construction field and has aspirations to start his own construction company, employing dis-effected young people, as a way of giving back.

Atiya came onto Think Forward as a capable but troubled student. She lived at home with her mum and her sister and although dad was estranged from mum, he still formed a powerful influence over the family. He had been physically abusive to Atiya’s mother and verbally abusive to Atiya and this had formed a deep impression on Atiya’s approach to her personal relationships and school life. Atiya had difficulties in dealing with her emotions and frequently accessed support from the school pastoral team but always stopped short of accessing mental health support as she did not trust counselling services. She did, however, form a strong bond with her ThinkForward coach and would often attend lunch time group sessions exploring gratitude and resilience.

In 2014 Atiya managed to get 9 A-C GCSEs and signed up for A-levels at college. Whilst at college she was highlighted as a gifted student however, in November Atiya decided that she did not want to continue with college and wanted to work in banking. She quit college in December and with her coach’s support signed up for a traineeship with Capita to become a Barclays Apprentice. After an 8 week traineeship and work placement she successfully gained an apprenticeship with Barclays as a Digital Eagle.

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