Prince Charles’ emotional words at Pride of Britain gong for amazing youngsters

Prince Charles has told how he has been "greatly encouraged and inspired" by the young people who have won the Prince's Trust's Young Achiever gong at the Pride of Britain Awards over the past two decades.

The prince said: "This year marks 20 years of the award and I must extend my thanks to Pride of Britain for their continued support.

"This award has celebrated 20 incredible young people who had support from my Trust to help change their lives.

"Many are now also helping to change the lives of others."

He spoke as his Prince's Trust celebrates the milestone of supporting a million young people since he launched it in 1976.

The 20th anniversary of the Prince's Trust Young Achiever award is a highlight of the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards, in partnership with TSB, on ITV tonight at 9pm.

He praised this year's winner Rebecca Beattie, 32, who, after suffering horrifying domestic violence, set up ethical clothing brand Always B.U, which raises funds for domestic abuse charities and, as a campaigner, has inspired other victims.

Over 20 years, millions of TV viewers have been inspired by the many worthy and remarkable winners.

They have been young people who have battled back from crime, drug addiction or personal turmoil and are now helping others who face similar challenges in life.

Here we find out to what happened to some of those young people whose stories most moved us all…

HEZRON BROWN

Prince's Trust ambassador Sir Ben Kingsley presented the award to Hezron at pride of Britain 2019.

Ex-gang member Hezron turned his life around and now helps steer other young people away from gangs and the dangers of knife crime.

Aged five, Hezron fell into a bath of scalding hot water and was severely burned. Despite months of skin grafts in Birmingham Children’s Hospital, he was badly scarred.

It led to bullying from other children and, as Hezron turned to violence as a way of dealing with it, he was expelled from both primary and secondary school.

Aged just 13, his mother could no longer cope and asked him to leave home.

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He initially lived with his older sister but by 15, he was living on the streets. Social services secured him a flat and he got a place at college, but he was soon drawn into gang life.

Facing a long sentence for robbery, Hezron, now 30, was given a second chance by the judge, who didn’t jail him.

He left court determined to change his life and went back into education.

He recalls: “I knew gang culture was wrong but I had been on my own for so long, it was like a family to me.

“I’ve had guys try and stab me, guns to my head but it wasn’t until I was looking at up to 10 years in prison that I realised I needed to get out.”

After a Prince’s Trust programme helped him find a job, he turned his attention to helping others.

Over the past seven years he has told his story to thousands of youngsters to steer them away from gangs, drugs and violence, he has mentored hundreds of young people.

In one of the highlights of last year’s Pride of Britain awards, Hezron thought he was travelling to Scotland for an interview about his work, but was stunned when Prince Charles walked in with his award.

“Hezron has not only overcome the most extraordinary odds to make a success of his life, but is now changing the lives of others,” the Prince said.

Hezron said: "Meeting the Prince Charles was incredible and emotional. What pride of Britain meant to me is that anyone, no matter where you come from or what you've been through, can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.

"I accepted that award not just for me, but for so many other young people out there who may be struggling with what life has thrown at them.

"Since then I have started my business More Talk More Action to inspire young people across the UK.

"The Prince's trust has been a great support and I'm now in a position to support other young people who want to create a positive future for themselves."

He added: "Even the lockdown has given me opportunities. I suddenly had headspace and time to set up my own studio as well as establish a series of online seminars that mean I can now help young people wherever they are, all round the world."

KATIE WALKER (2017)

Prince's Trust ambassadors Sir Rod Stewart and wife Penny Lancaster presented the award to her at Pride of Britain 2017.

Katie survived horrific beatings by her abusive ex – but went on to inspire thousands of other victims of domestic violence through social media and unique sessions in her Liverpool beauty salon.

In 2011, after a difficult time following the death of her boyfriend, Katie was finally getting back on her feet and trying to realise her childhood ambition of opening her own salon.

But she was trapped in a controlling relationship with a violent partner and seemed destined never to achieve her dream.

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One night her partner beat her so savagely that he broke every bone in her face, and Katie spent three months in and out of hospital having her face rebuilt. When on one occasion her face collapsed she underwent emergency surgery.

Her partner was sent to prison but she shut herself off from the world, suffering from depression and refusing to see people.

It was her counsellor who suggested she meet with the Prince’s Trust, who helped her regain her confidence and gave her the support, through their Enterprise Programme, to finally open her salon in 2013.

Katie, now 33, said: “Opening the salon was the happiest day of my life. But I wanted to use it for something more than hair and beauty.

"I wanted to show women going through what I did that there is a way out. There is life on the other side.

Now, every year, on the anniversary of the attack, Katie re-posts the photographs of her badly beaten face on social media, and gets thousands of likes from women suffering abuse.

She also asks her social media followers to nominate someone who is going through difficult times and in need of a pamper.

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She said: “I know what it’s like to be rock bottom with no hope. It’s amazing what it can do for somebody’s self-worth, just knowing someone cares about them and wants to help them.”

Sir Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster presented Katie with her award, and also pledged £10,000 to help her business.

Penny said: “For Katie to share her story with so many other women that are going through the same thing, to have her own business and to move forward, just shows her strength.”

Katie said: "It still feels very surreal that I won the award – it was a magical night and it means alot to me to know that my story may have helped other survivors of domestic abuse.

"I want survivors to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that they can get through this and Pride of Britain has really helped to raise awareness of that important message."

She added: " The support that the Prince's Trust gave me to set up my own business, Bella Mode salon, made all the difference to me and I am pleased to say I've also recently established a charity Katie Cares to help other survivors of domestic abuse.

"We're converting the rooms above the salon into a centre for domestic abuse survivors and I'm delighted that two of my Prince's Trust mentors, who helped me so much with my business, have come on board as trustees for my charity."

FRANCESCA BROWN (2016)

The Prince of Wales presented the award to Francesca at Pride of Britain 2016.

Francesca overcame depression and family troubles to set up an inspirational football programme for girls, helping them deal with issues such as low self-esteem, bullying and body image.

Fran was brought up by her grandmother in Manchester from the age of 13 after her parents split.

Suffering depression and low self-esteem, she tried to take her own life.

Football provided her with an escape from her problems, and her skill earned her a place in the Manchester City youth team.

At 16, she was about to accept a scholarship to play football in the US but a groin injury ended her football career and American dream.

Fran, now 29, said: “The injury was shattering because growing up football had been my way of getting my confidence back.”

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She left Manchester and set off for London with just £10 in her pocket. She stayed on friends’ sofas and became a youth and community worker.

It was after becoming pregnant with son Khyo that she came up with the idea for her football academy.

"I needed to make something of myself,” she said.

“I didn’t want my child to be treated like I was when I was growing up.”

She set up her Goals4Girls project in East London for 11 to 16-year-olds.

The coaching also lets Fran talk to them about body image, self-confidence, bullying and many other challenges, while giving them a career pathway.

Fran ran Goals4Girls as a voluntary project for two years before joining the Prince’s Trust enterprise programme in 2015, which helped her turn it into a business.

Now a PE teacher, she said: “I’m passionate about helping young women reach their full potential.”

Presenting her with the Prince’s Trust Young Achiever of the Year at the 2016 Pride of Britain awards, Prince Charles said: “Well done. Your remarkable story represents the importance of my Trust’s work.”

She said: "Receiving the award from Prince Charles was humbling. One of the best things about receiving the award on a national stage was that it showed young women and girls from the BAME community that anything is possible – it broke down so many barriers.

"The Prince's Trust has been an incredible support, even to this day I am in contact with my mentor and my business has now helped over 2,000 young girls to play football and increase their confidence through sport and education.

"The Trust and the pride of Britain award have played a big part in that achievement and my life – I'm really thankful. "

MARK JOHNSON (2005)

Prince's Trust ambassador Victoria Beckham presented him with the award at Pride of Britain 2005.

Mark went from begging on the streets for money to fuel his drug and alcohol addiction to owning his own successful tree surgery business – and employs others who need a leg up in life, too.

Originally from the West Midlands, he spent 15 years in a vicious cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime, finally hitting rock bottom when he became homeless on the streets of London.

A friend finally got him on to a recovery plan and months later, clean from drugs but lacking confidence and direction, he began to think about his life.

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He had some previous experience as a tree surgeon and after several meetings with The Prince’s Trust, they put a business plan together and gave him the confidence to start his own company.

Mark received a £1,500 loan and £1,000 grant from The Trust in 2001, and built his business, Treewise, up from there, applying for an expansion loan a year later.

He has employed up to eight people, owns three trucks and extensive specialist equipment, and works for clients across the south.

Mark, now 49, said: “I couldn’t even begin to think that I’d end up with a roof, a job and being normal, never mind having my own business.

“I thought I’d end up dead behind some bins in Westminster.

"I’d sit there on Oxford Circus watching other people, wishing I was them. I couldn’t see any way out.”

Mark was presented with his Pride of Britain award by Victoria Beckham, later saying: “It’s an honour and a privilege to be recognised, and to think that someone somewhere thinks it’s an inspiring story.

“It also gives me a tremendous opportunity to give something back to those people who, like me, have suffered from addiction. If I can do it then anyone can.”

  • The Prince's Trust is a youth charity that helps young people aged 11 to 30 get into jobs, education and training. To find out more, visit  www.princes-trust.org.uk
  • Don’t miss the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards 2020, in partnership with TSB, tonight, 9pm, ITV.

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