In 1997 I made a choice that devastated my family and took me away from my life. Up until that point, I was doing well at school and was doing my Gold Award. Then at 17, I rebelled against my upbringing and started going clubbing and dancing all night - I loved the new world I entered. I joined in with friends who were taking drugs.
I ignored those who cared for me and was hooked on the highs before it began destroying my life. One night, I stupidly and naively carried a large amount of drugs into a nightclub. I was searched, arrested and didn't come home for a year - funnily enough, I never heard from any of my drug scene 'friends' at that point. I was sentenced to two years in a young offenders’ institution and was at rock bottom, feeling as if I had ruined my future.
Amazingly my family and my friends didn’t turn their backs on me including my local Award Leader who wrote to me saying they hadn't given up on me. I was told that I could still take part in the Award in prison apart from the Adventurous Journey section for obvious reasons. I managed to finish my Skills, Service and Physical Recreation during that year behind bars and when I came out, I eventually completed my Gold.
Since then I have remained involved with the Award, doing talks and telling my story to adults, young people, young offenders and supporters. I also represented the UK Award at the International Gold Event (IGE) 2002 in Canada. I went on to achieve a Psychology degree followed by a Masters and qualified as a youth worker - I now run the Award at my own youth centre!
I have visited the prison I served in many times as well as other young offenders’ institutions and secure units to share my story and give hope to others that they too can turn their lives around. The Award has changed my life massively. If I could inspire just one young person the way that I have been inspired by the Award, then the pain will have been worth it."
Danielle, United Kingdom