Gemma, now 23, went into care at the age of nine when physical abuse and alcoholism was discovered at home.
At 16, memories of the past resurfaced and her usually bubbly, confident self withdrew into a dark space of depression and self-doubt. “I didn’t speak to many people, couldn’t leave the house and struggled to care for myself,” she says.
Her foster mother heard about The Prince’s Trust and felt it could help. Gemma, from Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, ignored her own doubts and started the Team programme.
Immediately, she was dedicated. She took on leadership responsibilities, asked for feedback throughout and boosted everyone with her infectious personality. Gemma took a proactive approach to her future, too, by seeking out a careers advisor at The Trust and cementing her ambition to become a nurse.
The Team programme, which was delivered in partnership with Great Yarmouth College, is a 12-week personal development course that gives unemployed young people the skills and confidence to find work.
“I left my comfort zone and got all my old qualities back – plus respect for myself,” she says. “The course made me realise I can do anything, no matter what my past has been. I’m so grateful for that.”
Gemma has just finished the first year of her nursing degree at Middlesex University.
“Because of The Trust, I took the leap to live away from home for the first time, which I was really worried about. It has really paid off and I couldn’t be happier living in London.”
“If I hadn’t done Team I’d still be living in Great Yarmouth, either on Jobseeker’s Allowance or in a job that made me miserable.”
Since discovering she thrives under pressure, Gemma’s long-term goal is to become a paramedic or surgical nurse. “I desperately hope to influence other children in care to follow their dreams, too,” she adds.