Inspiring Norfolk teenager ‘honoured’ after receiving special award

'Go for it!' - that was the inspiring message from a teenager who has become the first winner of a prestigious award.

Reuben Poll, 18, received the Lord-Lieutenant's Youth Fellowship Award yesterday at Great Dunham Primary School, near Swaffham, where he works as a teaching assistant.

The special accolade was presented by Richard Jewson, Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, who said it was a joy to visit the school.

Reuben, who lives in the Swaffham area, was one of 18 young people aged 16 to 19 to be nominated for the county-wide award, launched in December.

The teenager's prize was a glass trophy, a personal mentor to help him with his future career and �5000.

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Reuben, who has spent 10 years of his life in care, was nominated after achieving a post as a teaching assistant last September at Great Dunham Primary, aged just 17.

Over the past six months the teenager has set up and run a breakfast and after-school club for pupils.

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As well as his work commitments, Reuben also volunteers at Swaffham Youth Club and at a youth club for disabled people and started an Open University degree in psychology and education in May this year.

After the presentation, Reuben said: 'My background has helped me because it helps me understand and relate to others. If I can do it then so can other people. In life you are not just stuck on a one-way road - you can be who you want to be. I would say to anyone, go for it and never stop. If you want something then do it because it is in your hands.'

Reuben, who hopes to teach abroad next summer, added: 'My life has been eventful, to say the least, but I'm very lucky to have realised the direction I want my life to take. This room is full of people who are so important to my life. I look forward to inspiring others, as you have inspired me.'

Mr Jewson said: 'Reuben stood out from the rest of the nominations. He has more than fulfilled the criteria with his commitment and concern for others. He should be an inspiration for us all.'

The Lord-Lieutenant said the annual award was for teenagers who overcame 'significant difficulties in their lives' and for those who demonstrated long-term support for people in their community.

The teenager, who studied at Litcham High School and the College of West Anglia in King's Lynn, wants to become a primary school teacher.

Sally Bone, headteacher at Great Dunham Primary, said: 'Reuben is the youngest member of staff we have ever had l but he is so obviously the right person for the job and we are so glad that we appointed him. He is completely dedicated and is fantastic in his role as a one-to-one teaching assistant for a pupil with special educational needs. His commitment to the breakfast and after-school club is also tremendous and he has been able to create two outstanding clubs, which the children love.'

Anyone who would like to nominate a young person for the 2012 Fellowship can email or telephone Paul Anthony on 01603 222934 or Sharon Stone on 01603 228881, for an informal chat.

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