Young person of the year named
Published: Friday 24th May 13
A 19-year-old girl who is working hard to forge a bright future in the construction industry despite leaving school with few GCSEs has been named Wandsworth Young Person of the Year.
Rachel Penfold from Tooting picked up a trophy, certificate and cheque for £500 after being recognised during a celebration of remarkable young people at Wandsworth's Civic Suite on Tuesday, May 14.
After leaving school with few GCSE's Rachel had no real purpose or direction and ended up spending her time drinking and hanging around the streets - but with support and the right opportunities she began to recognise her potential and she has turned things around.
Following several attempts at finding a course she loved, Rachel began studying painting and decorating and last October enrolled on a Women into Construction course.
Soon after that, she made it on to London Youth's Build-it pilot project, which was shown on Channel 4 in May as part of The Secret Millions series.
The project's organisers were all impressed by Rachel's passion and commitment for the project, which saw her working alongside professional tradespeople and other young people to refurbish a house in Brixton for a family in need of a new home.
Recently, Rachel discovered she had been accepted on to an overseas volunteering project, which will see her go to Swaziland for six weeks this summer to teach women carpentry skills so that they can earn a living.
Since getting the good news she has been hard at work raising funds for the project by making presentations about it to community groups.
Last Tuesday, Rachel, who was nominated for the award by the team at Furzedown Youth Centre, where she has attended for the past three years and now regularly volunteers, said: "I was sitting there just wanting to receive a certificate, then l heard my story getting read out. It was so overwhelming l can't explain it - l just started to cry.
"When they said l was the Young Person of the Year l was so excited l couldn't breathe. I was in shock, overjoyed and so, so happy. I just can't believe it."
In total, eight individuals and two groups received awards and certificates from the borough's now-former mayor Councillor Adrian Knowles in one of his last engagements before handing over the mayoralty to Councillor Angela Graham on Thursday, May 16.
The annual award ceremony, which is organised by the Young Person of the Year trustees in conjunction with Wandsworth Council's youth service, recognises and rewards the exceptional achievements of young people over the past 12 months.
The borough's executive member for education and children's services, Councillor Kathy Tracey, said: "Every year this awards ceremony shines a spotlight on some of the amazing young people who live in Wandsworth.
"Each one has faced challenges and overcome adversity or difficult circumstances in order to succeed - and I hope they can be an inspiration to other young people.
"They fully deserve their awards and if they continue working as hard as they have already I have no doubt they will go on to achieve even more great things."
Tuesday night also saw 11-year-old flutist Isabel Walter receive a Wandsworth Young Performer of the Year certificate - and treat the audience to two performances.
Local police cadets and the 9th Earlsfield, 4th Southfields and 1st Wandsworth Senior Section Guides were on hand to help the Wandsworth Young Person of the Year trustees and the council's youth service ensure the evening ran smoothly.
Nominations for next year's award will open in early 2014, and anyone interested should check the council website at that time for news.
Find out more about what's on offer to young people in the borough by visiting www.wandsworth.gov.uk/youth.