An inspirational teenager who was in the depths of despair before he turned his young life around is up for a royal award.
Daniel Rogers, 17 from Hemel Hempstead, faced a severe illness and family upheaval which contributed to behavioural problems and the youngster giving up on school. Fast forward to today and Daniel has turned his life around to represent his hometown in a prestigious royal awards ceremony this month.
His incredible achievements mean that he is now one of just three people from across the UK to be chosen as a finalist for a royal award at The Prince’s Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards.
The Oscar-style ceremony, hosted by TV stars Ant and Dec, recognises the achievements of young people who have ‘succeeded against the odds, improved their chances in life and had a positive impact on their local community’.
Daniel is up for the Novae Educational Achiever of the Year Award, which recognises young people who have overcome significant personal barriers to develop new skills which enabled them to get back into education.
He will be rubbing shoulders with celebrity guests like actor Kevin Spacey, X Factor judge Simon Cowell, actress Gemma Arterton and football legend and World Cup winner Thierry Henry, who will come together to congratulate the young people on their achievements. Singers Ella Henderson and James Bay will also be performing at the event.
It has been a long road for Daniel. On his 11th birthday, he ill and collapsed. Doctors eventually found he had several serious illnesses and told him he would never run again.
Then his mum’s relationship broke down and he was separated from his younger siblings. He was devastated to lose touch with his brothers and sisters but Daniel devoted himself to looking after his mum, conquered his illness and even played football for a local team.
However, his behaviour, fuelled by frustration and the side effects of his medication, began to deteriorate. He felt misunderstood by teachers and eventually dropped out of school.
Later, Daniel joined The Prince’s Trust xl programme, delivered at Dacorum Education Support Centre in Hemel Hempstead. The course helps young people struggling at school by giving them confidence and motivation.
“The Prince’s Trust got me on track,” Daniel said.
“It was fun learning and the staff would actually speak to me about my problems. Just knowing they really cared and didn’t just judge me, meant everything.”
And it was a simple game of tennis that helped make his life ace again. Daniel’s team won a tennis tournament and he suddenly started feeling more positive, realised he had a lot of friends, took pride in his work and matured into a role model.
Despite a serious health scare, when he was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital, he passed all the programme units and took on extra work to pass his GCSEs. With interview training he won places on two college courses and has chosen to study carpentry – after his mentor introduced him to woodwork.
Without The Trust I very much doubt I’d be at college now, or if I was, I would be keeping myself totally isolated. I know how lucky I am to have had the help I’ve had. Thanks to that my mum can be proud of me again and that makes me so happy. I am even proud of myself.Daniel Rogers
“Before, I wouldn’t dare to speak to anyone I didn’t know,” Daniel said.
“Without The Trust I very much doubt I’d be at college now, or if I was, I would be keeping myself totally isolated. I know how lucky I am to have had the help I’ve had. Thanks to that my mum can be proud of me again and that makes me so happy. I am even proud of myself.”
Matthew Fosh, CEO, Novae Insurance, said: “The Novae Educational Achiever of the Year Award acknowledges young people who have risen above difficult circumstances, learned new skills and gone on to successfully complete an educational course.
“It’s my pleasure to congratulate Daniel for being one of just three people in the UK shortlisted for this award. He is a great example of resilience, strength and determination.”
Daniel is not the only person representing Hemel Hempstead at the ceremony, as 14 young people who took part in The Prince’s Trust’s Team programme have been nominated for the prestigious Morgan Stanley Community Impact Award. The 12-week Team programme, delivered by YMCS Bedfordshire, helps unemployed young people gain the skills and confidence they need to find a job.
As part of the course, the group had to take part in a project that would benefit their local community. When researching potential projects, the group discovered that The Collett School in Hemel was struggling with a lack of age-appropriate books for teenagers with reading difficulties; the pupils were using books written for primary school children, which left them feeling uninspired and demoralised.
Setting their sights high, the young people on team decided to write and produce a series of six books for the school. With no experience of publishing, they knew the learning curve would be steep.
After researching printing companies, they raised £1,000 by organising a pub quiz and persuading local businesses to donate funds. They then collaborated with pupils in order to choose appropriate topics – including alcohol, homosexuality and anxiety around starting college – while teachers gave guidance on the kind of language that would challenge students, while keeping them engaged.
The Team worked flat out to produce the books, splitting into groups to work on photography, visual design and scripting, and challenging themselves to create a valuable resource that could be used for years to come.
Team member James Townsend, 22, says, “When we gave the books to the students and their head teacher, we were choked – nearly all of us in tears. Seeing the reaction from the students, and what we’d achieved, was just amazing. We’re all so proud.”
The Collett School predicts that the books will be read by thousands of pupils over the next few years – and a number of Team members are now drawing up plans to repeat the success at special needs schools across the UK.
The Prince’s Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards, now in their eleventh year, will be held on March 12 at London’s Leicester Square Odeon. This is the national final following a series of regional award ceremonies which took place across the country at the end of 2014.