My name is Rhys, a first time dad blogging about my adventures and experiences of being a parent. [email protected]

Young man from Conwy meets His Majesty the King after winning prestigious national Prince’s Trust award

Rhys, 16 from Conwy has won a prestigious national Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx and Homesense Award.  He scooped the Ascential Education Award which recognises a young person who has demonstrated significant personal growth and overcome barriers to improve their future through a Prince’s Trust Education programme.​

He attended a reception at Buckingham Palace to meet His Majesty The King, Founder of The Prince’s Trust, who congratulated the award winners on their achievements.

Rhys was honoured on Tuesday at the star-studded awards ceremony, hosted by Ant and Dec, and attended by many celebrity supporters and Ambassadors of the youth charity. He was presented his award by actor Martin Freeman and Penny Stewart who joined him at the palace yesterday. 

The Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense Awards honours and celebrates the successes of those who have been helped by The Trust, and those who support them, in the UK and around the world.

The Awards shines a light on the inspirational stories of young people, volunteers and those who support their wider communities. It showcases the impact of The Trust’s work building the confidence and skills needed to get into a job, education, training, or self-employment. Many of the winners have overcome significant barriers to transform their lives and build brighter futures for themselves and their communities.

Rhys’ story

The Covid-19 pandemic saw challenges for many, including Rhys. With his family moving home and loss of contact with his school and friends, Rhys struggled with anxiety and thoughts of self-harm. Diagnosed with ASD in April 2020, Rhys withdrew from social settings, including education.

Rhys, 16 from Conwy

Rhys’ journey with The Prince’s Trust began on the Achieve programme after being referred to Milestones Academy by his previous schoolteacher. This academy is a Pupil Referral Unit that supports young people who are struggling with school, providing an environment to navigate challenges and find a path to personal growth.

The Achieve programme saw Rhys begin to interact with others during team-building activities, learning new skills in autism awareness whilst being pushed out his comfort zone. Rhys found himself being very nervous and unwilling to socialise at first, but with time, he opened up and allowed himself to form friendships. By having the support and a safer space around him, Rhys has been able to manage his anxiety.

Despite his challenges in education, the programme gave Rhys the desire to push his boundaries as he completed his GCSEs, BTEC and Prince’s Trust certificate. His skills, confidence, and newfound ability to open up led him to reconcile with his past, showing gratitude to his former teachers who directed him to The Prince’s Trust and Milestones Group.

“I’ve been able to do more than I can imagine with the correct support. I never thought I’d be this determined to do anything in life – I value learning now more than ever and I understand the importance of it.”

Encouraged by his youth development leader and mentor, Rhys began to consider what he could do for others, marking a shift on his journey. Pursuing his Public Services Level 3 course, Rhys is now running for Youth Parliament in Wales and Student Union President at his college, whilst firm on joining the police force determined to contribute to society.

On winning the Ascential Education award Rhys said: “Being privileged with the opportunity that comes with this award honestly leaves me speechless and beyond happy. It’ll propel me in my future ambitions, especially when it comes to my CV and joining the police.

“The first way I’ll be utilising this recognition is for my upcoming campaign for Member of Welsh Youth Parliament for the Vale of Clwyd, alongside running for Student Union President within Coleg Llandrillo. It’s been my hope to give back what I’ve been helped for all these years, putting it to good use, as I understand how much of a privileged position I am in compared to others, and the support I’ve been granted has pushed me into a place I would have never dreamed of 1 or 2 years ago.

“I’m not the only individual in the world who has experienced difficulties through education, and by giving back I can make a difference, and with this recognition from The Prince’s Trust, I feel confident enough to give back to my community and support those who need that extra support.”

Philip Thomas, Chief Executive, Ascential said: “Rhys has demonstrated astounding resilience and determination at such a young age. His experience shows just how important it is to have the right support. He is an inspiration for all of us, and I wish him all the success for the future.”

BAFTA and Emmy Award winner, Martin Freeman said: “Rhys’ story shows what can happen when you turn adversity into an opportunity. Navigating challenges during the pandemic, whilst being able to work towards your dreams is truly admirable. Rhys, you are transforming your life. Congratulations on your award win, and best of luck with your pursuit of joining the police force.”

TV Presenter, Penny Stewart said: “Rhys you are now inspiring young people across the UK to fight their fears. You are incredibly deserving of this award. From severe isolation and anxiety to making friends, creating new goals, and completing college courses. Rhys has displayed what the power of education support can do to young a person’s life.”