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Young achiever defied the odds to pursue dream job

Published on 26/03/2024

Stuart Fawkes, of TJX Europe, presented the award to Cherelle
Stuart Fawkes, of TJX Europe, presented the award to Cherelle

An inspirational theatre support worker at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham has won a top award after turning her life around to pursue her dream career in the NHS.

Cherelle Knight scooped the Princes Trust’s young achiever award for England. This recognises a young person who has overcome barriers to succeed in work, enabling them to build a more stable and fulfilling life.

She was chosen as the England winner after completing a Prince’s Trust programme, in partnership with University Hospitals Birmingham.

Cherelle said: “It’s an amazing feeling! I was surprised when I was told initially – it took a bit of time to sink in.”

A single mother of four children, Cherelle had several false starts with the Prince’s Trust – signing up for programmes, then panicking and talking herself out of attendance.

However, in 2021, Cherelle attended a Prince’s Trust NHS programme and following completion was offered a health care assistant (HCA) role with UHB at Solihull Hospital, which she started in early 2022.

Cherelle faced many challenges growing up in Birmingham and her mental health suffered. She was initially homeschooled, the youngest child of five and struggled to transition to life at secondary school.

She said: “I felt as though I didn’t know how to be around people my age, I didn’t know how to socialise. Nobody understood that due to never going to school, I hadn’t learned how to mix.”

When she was 14, Cherelle attended college and completed several courses. By the age of 20, she had her first child. At 27 years old, Cherelle had four children, but is now a single parent. 

It was at this point that Cherelle wanted to concentrate on starting her career, showing her daughters that with hard work anything is possible, even without GCSEs.

Cherelle always had a desire to help people and dreamed of being a nurse. She’d known about the Prince’s Trust five years earlier, but at that point, she didn’t have the confidence to apply for a Prince’s Trust programme, let alone work in the NHS.

Cherelle said: “I soaked up all the information while on the Prince’s Trust programme and my confidence slowly started to improve – I realised I could do this, I was good enough, I did have the social skills, I started to see myself as an HCA.”

“In order to apply for NHS roles I needed official ID, which I didn’t have as my provisional licence had expired. I was worried about the cost of purchasing this.

“The Prince’s Trust were great, as they suggested I apply for a development award that would cover the cost of a new licence. It made a huge difference, as it would have been a struggle to find the extra money myself before starting work.

“Working in the NHS has changed my life for the better; it’s improved my mental health, my drive, my ambition and my hope. I am now stronger. I have a future and I am sure my children's lives will be more secure too.”

Cherelle was recently promoted to a theatre support worker. She now goes through to the UK round of the awards.

The Prince’s Trust, TK Maxx and Homesense awards recognise young people who have succeeded against the odds and improved their chances in life. TK Maxx and Homesense (TJX) have been a partner of the Prince’s Trust since 2013.

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