Laura Wheeler is a tutor on Learning 4 Life, a pre-vocational education programme which supports young people unable to access mainstream training or employment due to substance misuse, offending behaviours, homelessness or mental health issues.

“It is no exaggeration to say that she has saved lives with her professionalism and ability to manage situations that others would walk away from”, says Laura’s nominator, Lisa Gardiner.

Those learning with Laura have achieved numerous qualifications, progressing onto mainstream education and employment. She builds trust, manages to find their passion and supports them to believe in themselves. A key to this success is the way in which Laura has created a strong network of professionals around her, working with many services to support each young person in a holistic way.

‘Anna’ was withdrawn, and her sporadic attendance signalled that there were issues in her life. She eventually disclosed that she was in an abusive relationship and was supported to move into a women’s refuge while continuing to achieve her qualifications.

‘Joe’ struggled with mental health and anxiety, he was self-harming and had periods of psychosis – he was connected to the professional support he needed and has progressed from being sectioned for his own safety to starting college and believing he has a future.

‘Adam’ had been in care as well as moving around several supported living projects. He achieved Essential Skills qualifications, throughout this he struggled with personal relationships and substance misuse. He has now secured employment and is working towards qualifications to enable him to work in civil engineering. Importantly he’s maintaining his own tenancy and he’s become an advocate for other young people who have been in care.

Laura says, “I strongly believe that young adults, particularly those who have been told in the past that they’d never amount to anything, can use learning to achieve their potential and be what they want to be.”