80 students from 20 schools along with teachers, athlete mentors, Amy Williams MBE and Dame Kelly Holmes descended on the QEII Centre in Westminster on Tuesday 3rd July to celebrate their achievements on the 2019 AQA Unlocking Potential programme.

AQA Unlocking Potential is a mentoring programme for young people aged 11 to 19 who have faced personal challenges or disadvantages. The programme is delivered in partnership with AQA using Dame Kelly Holmes Trust's specially trained athlete mentors who competed at world-class sporting events - including the Olympics and Paralympics - and who have often overcome their own significant personal challenges.

The celebration event marks the end of the programme and allows the participants to meet students from other schools, share stories about their journeys and to receive a certificate and Amazon voucher from Dame Kelly Holmes.

This year we were fortunate to be joined by Olympic skeleton champion Amy Williams, who joined in with the morning's workshops and activities before helping to present certificates on the stage in the afternoon. She also talked about her struggle to become Olympic champion and the determination and resilience she needed to show in order to succeed.

During the afternoon session we heard from students at Woodkirk Academy who were featured in the film of the programme. According to their teacher, all of the students had been at risk of dropping out of Education, but as a result of the programme and their work with Paul Broadbent, they were all looking to stay on in education or had sights firmly set on their careers. Maddi is going to stay on in 6th form to study law while Joshua is going to apply for the fire service. Charlie is going to do his A-levels and go on to study sport psychology and Archie who unfortunately couldn't attend on the day is going to study psychology at university.

 

We also heard from Cameron from Victoria School who also featured in our film. Cameron, along with Matt and another student called Cameron delivered games sessions to young children as part of their social action project to outline how sports and games could be adapted for wheelchair users.

    

Dame Kelly Holmes, double gold Olympian and founder of Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, said:

To see more young people transformed through this life-changing programme is amazing and listening to them here today has been incredibly moving – they should all be really proud of what they’ve achieved.

AQA Unlocking Potential is a fantastic programme and every year students excel. It’s not aimed at developing the potential of future sports stars, it’s designed to help young people facing disadvantage raise their self-esteem, confidence and aspirations. Today is about celebrating those achievements.

The young people here today are our future. Well done to every single one of you.

Toby Salt, AQA’s Chief Executive, joined Dame Kelly Holmes on stage and said:

Every year I am amazed at the achievements of the young people that take part in AQA Unlocking Potential. The journey they’ve been on and to see how far they have come in such a short space of time is truly inspirational.

Our partnership with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust works really well and the impact of their athletes on these young people over the past eight months is clear for all to see.

AQA Unlocking Potential really is very special – to be able to help young people to truly realise their own potential is what AQA, and this programme, is all about.

The Trust would also also like to thank players of People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting us to reach even more young people on the 2018/19 programme.