A young woman from Sheffield who left school at 11 but went on to attend university has been given a national award.
Helena Kiely, now aged 28, won the Young Women’s Trust ‘Influencer’ award, having used her experience of being out of education to lead a project to help other young people gain skills.
Young Women’s Trust is a charity which supports women aged 16 to 30 on low or no pay.
Helena was brought up in an Irish traveller family and left school aged 11, but despite missing out on secondary school education she was determined to gain qualifications and went back into education at the age of 16.
She then became the first member of her family to go to university, graduating in 2014 with a first class degree in youth and community work.
After completing her degree, Helena wanted to give back to society and started working at Sheffield’s ‘Really NEET College’, which supports young people who are not in employment, education or training.
She has worked with disadvantaged young people, helping them to find hope in education again.
She has helped to engage with over 140 young people a year and she was made a joint director of the organisation last year.
Helena says: “It was a huge surprise to hear I was nominated for the award and I certainly never expected I would win.
“I have only ever tried to use my own experiences to inform and inspire young people to achieve their goals and this award has given me a huge confidence boost.”
Her award was presented at an award ceremony in London.