Ballymena man Ryan Gerrard has been nominated for an award at The Prince’s Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards in London next week.
The 23-year-old won the Northern Ireland Young Achiever Award a few months ago and has since been nominated to go through to the national final which will be held at a red carpet ceremony hosted by Ant & Dec in the London Palladium on March 7.
The Awards recognise disadvantaged young people who have overcome issues such as homelessness, depression and unemployment.
A series of regional events took place last year and will culminate in the national final at the Palladium where seven awards will be given out by Prince’s Trust Celebrity Ambassadors.
Ryan’s incredible achievements means he is now just one of three people across the UK to be nominated for the Young Achiever Award, which recognises young people who have struggled through unimaginable difficulties to transform their lives; their stories are of resounding achievement and are now inspiring others to strive for such success.
Before The Prince’s Trust, things had become so bad for Ryan that he tried to take his own life. He had faced bullying, intimidation and harassment on a daily basis at school because of his learning disability. As a result he lost his confidence and social skills after being removed from school in favour of home schooling. Then, when he became homeless, he got caught up in illegal activities and drugs.
Ryan said: “Every day was like a dead end. There was nothing good in my life and nothing to look forward to. I got very, very depressed and wanted to die. I was in a very dark place.”
A hostel referred Ryan to Fairbridge, a programme from The Prince’s Trust that helps enhance the motivation and confidence of young people who are struggling in life.
It took a lot of coaxing and one-to-one support from Fairbridge staff for Ryan to feel able to open up and start setting himself targets to work towards. Over time, Ryan forged positive friendships, began building bridges with his family, and discovered a talent for working outdoors. He made significant life changes that saw him move into his own flat and he started volunteering at Belfast Activity Centre.
Ryan added: “When I first came to The Prince’s Trust I was nervous, but my worker helped me communicate with people, make new friends and realise what I can do. If it wasn’t for them, I would be basically in a grave or lying in a ditch somewhere, but instead I am at BAC successfully living the dream.”