Meet the Sheffield teenager who says he is living proof you should never give up

A teenager who grew up in care and battled mental health problems is now helping other young Sheffielders get their lives back on track.

Monday, 23rd January 2017, 3:25 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd January 2017, 3:32 pm
Sheffield Futures is seeking more ambassadors like Nathan to spread the message about its work

Today Nathan Peterson, aged 18, is a youth ambassador who has organised successful fundraising events and is embarking on a career as a carer.

It is hard to picture him as the troubled 15-year-old who struggled to leave home due to agoraphobia, drank heavily, self-harmed and saw no future for himself.

Nathan's advice is to never let an opportunity slip through your grasp, no matter how bad things might seem

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He believes his story proves there is always hope, however bleak things look, and no one should ever give up on themselves.

For Nathan, the turning point came when, having left school with no qualifications, he was introduced to Sheffield Futures and joined a project run by the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust - but it was an opportunity he very nearly didn't grasp.

"On the first day I didn't really want to attend. I thought it would be like all the other courses I had attended but as soon as I turned up this felt different," he said.

"Before day one I didn't see myself as having a future or a career, and I couldn't care for myself, let alone anyone else.

Nathan's advice is to never let an opportunity slip through your grasp, no matter how bad things might seem

"By the end of the course I felt like a completely different person. I was motivated and engaging with everyone, and I wanted to make a difference. I think things would be very different had I not turned up that day."

Nathan and his peers spent eight weeks under the tutelage of sporting mentors including Olympic swimmer James Kirton getting stuck into activities from abseiling to preparing charity business pitches.

In partnership with the trust and with other young people from the project, he ran a charity event last year at Old Sharrow Junior School in aid of young people, at which Sheffield's lord mayor was among the guests of honour.

Inspired by its success, he organised a five-a-side football tournament in aid of Darnall Dementia Group, which had supported his late grandmother Sheila, raising an impressive £500.

Nathan credits the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust project with giving him the skills and confidence to secure a job as a care worker, which he recently began.

He is now a youth ambassador for Sheffield Futures, trying to raise awareness of the charity and ensure it can help more young people like him.

"I want to say a big thank you to Sheffield Futures for the support it gave me, and I'm now trying to give back to Sheffield," said Nathan, who grew up on the Arbourthorne and went into care aged 13.

"No matter what situation you're in, I would say always take any opportunity that comes your way because you never know when it's your time to shine."

Sheffield Futures this month launched its ambassador programme to find more people from all backgrounds who could spread the word about its work.

For more about becoming an ambassador for the charity, email [email protected]