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Rhys wins The Prince’s Trust Ascential Education Award

The Coleg Llandrillo student met King Charles and was quizzed on stage by Ant and Dec as he received his award

Coleg Llandrillo student Rhys Morris has won The Prince’s Trust Ascential Education Award.

Rhys was presented with the award at a ceremony in London, also getting to meet King Charles in a special reception at Buckingham Palace.

The Prince's Trust Ascential Education Award recognises young people who have overcome barriers and developed new skills to improve their prospects through re-engagement in education.

Rhys won the accolade after turning his life around with help from The Prince’s Trust and Milestones, a Pupil Referral Unit based at Ysgol Plas Cefndy in Rhyl.

Now, the 16-year-old from Abergele is studying Level 3 Uniformed Protective Services at Coleg Llandrillo in Rhyl, as he works towards his ambition of becoming a police officer.

He is running for Student Union president at the college, is hoping to be elected to the Welsh Youth Parliament later this year, and also volunteers with North Wales Police as a Young Ambassador, helping to strengthen relations between the force and young people.

“I’ve always wanted to go into policing,” Rhys said. “The biggest thing The Prince’s Trust has done for me is to help me realise that improving my confidence and self-esteem is key to that ambition.”

When he was 12, Rhys struggled with anxiety and found school difficult. He was referred to Milestones and The Prince’s Trust Achieve programme, which helped him develop his social skills, and leadership and teamwork skills.

The programme allowed Rhys to push his boundaries as he completed his GCSEs and Prince’s Trust certificate before gaining a place at college.

Earlier this year he won The Prince’s Trust Wales Education award, and was then invited to a packed ceremony at the Theatre Royal in London to receive UK-wide recognition with The Ascential Education Award.

He was presented with his award by actor Martin Freeman and broadcaster Penny Lancaster, before being quizzed on stage by Ant and Dec about The Achieve Programme and his ambitions of joining the Police.

“Ant and Dec were really supportive,” said Rhys. “They got all the winners together beforehand and were really warm with us and told us what to expect. They were really nice guys - we tend to put famous people up on a pedestal but they’re just human like the rest of us.”

Rhys said the ceremony was “nerve-racking”, as he had to make a speech in front of 1,700 people - “Something I’d never have been able to do two or three years ago.”

Rhys also chatted to the King, founder of The Prince’s Trust, which helps disadvantaged young people by offering financial grants, training course, and mentoring.

“That was an entirely humbling and quite spectacular moment,” said Rhys. “Talking to His Majesty was wonderful. He has a very gentle demeanour and just by talking to him for a few minutes, you can tell he’s highly dedicated to the Trust and has so much knowledge of its work.

“Being in the palace felt really personal and very special - it was remarkable and overwhelming.”

Rhys is enjoying studying at Coleg Llandrillo, and praised his personal tutor Cara Baker for inspiring him to keep achieving.

He said: “When I first started at college I was quite nervous, I still wasn’t great at socialising - but being at college has helped me develop my social skills and my confidence.

“Cara, my personal tutor, has been a massive help to me. I often work with her on surveys in my role as a Police Young Ambassador, and she has encouraged me to run for Student Union President and for the Welsh Youth parliament.

“I feel that having developed my social skills, I want them to use that to help other people by getting their views across.”

So what advice does Rhys have for other young people?

“There are opportunities out there,” he said. “Push yourself, take the opportunities when they come and it will improve your life.

“I know I’m not the only one who struggles - lots of people did during Covid. Winning this award just goes to show you should never give up. The Prince’s Trust taught me you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it.”

Do you want to work for the Police, Armed Forces, Fire Service or other community services? Click here to learn more about Grŵp Llandrillo Menai’s Police and Public Services courses