“Outstanding” and “inspirational” are probably the last words that Ryan Watson would ever use to describe himself.
After years spent being targeted by bullies, he long faced a crippling lack of confidence.
But tonight the 21-year-old will take to the stage at a glittering award ceremony in Newcastle, named winner of The Prince’s Trust’s Educational Achiever of the Year for the North-east.
His is one of two regional titles on the way to Teesside – with young people from Stockton Riverside College’s Middlesbrough Team due to pick up the Community Impact Award.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Ryan, who at one stage suffered such a severe lack of confidence he felt too embarrassed to even speak.
Having been targeted by his peers as a youngster, when it came to starting college, Ryan, who is deaf, felt so self-conscious that he would use a communicator in every class.
It was only after signing up to the Prince’s Trust Achieve course at Stockton Riverside College that all of that changed.
The personal development programme helps young people to develop confidence and employability skills over a one year programme.
For Ryan it proved a turning point, making friends and restoring the confidence he needed to finally rediscover his voice.
“Everyone was really friendly and supportive and that has helped me a lot,” he said.
Undertaking three independent work placements, he not only found the courage to face his fears and talk to friends and colleagues but also customers.
Now, with Ryan ready to move on to full-time work, his mum Tracy said: “The difference in him is massive. I no longer have to feel anxious about him being independent.
“This last year has been incredible. He always pushes himself to the limit. I am so proud of everything he has achieved.”
Also taking to the stage at The Discovery Museum tonight will be members of Stockton Riverside College’s Prince’s Trust Middlesbrough Team.
The dedicated youngsters are being recognised for work they carried out helping to revamp a Middesbrough autism charity’s new premises.
The team of 10 unemployed young people rolled up their sleeves to restore much-loved murals that MAIN had been forced to leave behind when the charity moved premises last year.
“The murals had made a fantastic difference to our service users, helping to clearly identify our family area,” said charity manager Helen Jaques.
The distinctive artwork which includes a jungle and a space scene had originally been created by members of a previous Prince’s Trust Team just months before.
Helen said: “When the young people came along and said that they would like to do it again, we jumped at the offer.”
Securing funding from UK Steel Enterprise, the team were able to restore the murals, carry out a range of redecoration work and build raised flower beds for the service users to grow their own fruit and veg.
“It was a huge project but we had loads of ideas and we wanted to help make a difference,” said team member Shaun Walker, 21, of Middlesbrough.
Team leader Graeme Ogle said: “The team worked extremely hard with passion and determination from the very first second to the last. We were very proud of what they achieved.”
The Prince’s Trust, TK Maxx and HomeSense Awards honour the achievements of young people supported by the Trust.
The Newcastle awards ceremony is one of 10 regional events putting the spotlight on some of those with the most outstanding inspirational stories from across the UK.