Youngsters beat personal challenges to win Duke award.

Young people with learning difficulties have overcome personal challenges to achieve Duke of Edinburgh awards.

They were presented with their certificates at a special ceremony at The Horsham Youth Hub, in Hurst Road.

All of the young people are members of M8s, which is a Horsham-based group for young people with learning difficulties or additional needs.

To achieve their award they each completed different sections of the programme which include volunteering, physical, skills and expedition.

One of the award winners, Andy Fuller, 21, from Southwater, has just completed a supported internship at Brinsbury College and believes the awards scheme has helped him gain part-time work as a tree surgeon.

Andy said: “I’ve met different people and built friendships through the award plus different skills for the future, like communication and team work.”

The option of taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme is just one of the activities on offer at M8s. The group currently gathers weekly to socialise and take part in cooking, arts and crafts, computer games and sports.

The award is an opportunity for members to gain a national accreditation, recognised within higher education and by employers.

The group focused on employment and life skills, including digital lifestyle, problem solving and current affairs.

Award recipient Jennie, 16, from Southwater, said: “I completed Bronze at school but Duke of Edinburgh award at M8s is more relaxed as you’re with friends in a youth centre. I’ve met lots of new friendly people here.”

Jennie’s carer Andrew Barker has also noticed an increase in her confidence. He said: “She’s more independent and goes out on her own now.”

Supported by the Young People’s Service, there are 58 centres in West Sussex which are delivering the award  to 9,271 participants. These are from schools, colleges, special schools, Open Award Centres and independent organisations. 

The award is open to all young people in West Sussex aged 13 to 25. 

Patrick Burgess OBE, Deputy Lieutenant and Chairman of the West Sussex DofE County Committee, who presented the awards, said: “The momentum here is incredible. We are all uplifted by the energy. They are all amazing as individuals and together as a group.”

Stephen Hillier, County Council Cabinet Member for Children – Start of Life, said: “Taking part in the scheme takes a lot of dedication and determination as the challenges push young people to develop new skills.

“These 20 young people are quite inspirational as they have had to overcome more than most.

“Team work, co-operation, awareness of others and self-awareness have all played an important role in their achievement and I look forward to hearing from them in the future as the scheme gives them the push to do bigger and more challenging things.”

To find out more about taking part in West Sussex, email, or contact a school, college, youth group or one of the five Open Centres in the county.

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