INSPIRATIONAL Helena Kiely hopes that winning a national award will motivate teenagers she helps get back on track.
Helena (28), from Manvers, said she was shocked to win the Young Women’s Trust Influencer award in London.
She was given the prize for her work as a director with The Really NEET Project, which helps young people in Sheffield, Rotherham and Barsnley who have experienced difficulties in getting into employment, training or education.
Helena, who was brought up in an Irish traveller family and left school at 11 but went on to get a first class degree in Youth and Community Work, said she was over the moon about her award.
She said: “It is fantastic. It is a great honour.
“When I found out I had been nominated I didn’t expect for a second I would win it. It was a real shock to win.”
Helena said she did not realise what a big deal the Young Women’s Trust Awards were and was surprised to turn up to the presentation event and find around 150 people in the audience.
She admitted that she had not prepared a speech but felt compelled to say something as the winners of the two other awards presented that night had.
But she hoped her success would inspire the young people that The Really NEET Project works with.
Helena said: “If I can do it, they can definitely do it.
“For the young people I work with, I hope it will encourage them to raise their expectations.”
Helena left school at 11 but despite missing out on secondary school education, she was determined to gain qualifications and went back into education at 16. She then became the first member of her family to go to university, graduating in 2014.
While gaining her qualifications, Helena dedicated her spare time to working with the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit and, after completing her degree, started working at The Really NEET Project after being inspired by the organisation’s founder Sophie Maxwell who visited her university.
She was made a joint director of the organisation last year.
Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey praised Helena for her work and award success.
He said: “I want to congratulate Helena on winning the Young Women’s Trust Influencer award.
“There are lots of barriers that make it hard for young women to get work, but every day young women like Helena are working hard to overcome them.
“Helena has helped other young people in South Yorkshire to gain skills too, and it’s fantastic that her efforts are being recognised.”