Our Journey

‘Change a young person’s life today and they may change the world tomorrow.’

Af0sF2OS5S5gatqrKzVP_SilhoutteThe Really NEET College is a safe learning environment for young people who are not in Employment, Education or Training. At Really NEET we engage young people aged 16-24 who might be homeless. a young mum, on probation, fed up with main stream education, a care leaver, need smaller groups to work in or want to learn outside of the box!

Sophie Maxwell founded the Really NEET College in March 2011 for young people aged 16-24 to learn in an environment that suits them. Prior to that, she had successfully beaten her previous NEET status aged 14-16, overcoming homelessness aged 16-18. She went on to study at Norton College and then Sheffield Hallam to graduate in Leisure Events Management in 2009.

Whilst studying at Sheffield Hallam University Sophie set up her social business AW Education which gets teenagers engaging positively with education again through engaging, practical sessions aiding both personal and social development. She has worked with hundreds of young people and has run over twenty engagement projects across South Yorkshire, projects included; environmentally friendly fashion shows that were inter-generational, tough guy challenges with scrap cars as obstacles and founding community choirs, which in 2010 led to her winning two national ‘Crisis – Changing Lives’  Awards including the Linklater prize for Enterprise. She is a credible role model that any young person can relate to and be inspired by. She was also awarded the High Sheriff Award for; ‘valuable and devoted services to the community’. Sophie has also just won ‘most disruptive idea’ at Prince Andrew’s Pitch at the Palace event!

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAKdAAAAJDI1NjBjMjE3LTY1ZjUtNDQ1MS05Y2VmLTI3NmIwZGFjY2IyMASophie found she was engaging the young people, but felt they needed longer term more intensive support and nurturing. After spending many hours of her own time having informal mentoring sessions in the community, she set up the Really NEET College.

Her vision was to have a college where young people who didn’t want to go to mainstream college for a variety of reasons could come and learn social entrepreneurship, Maths, English and Art in a safe environment that left them inspired and full of energy and passion for life.  A place which transformed disadvantaged young people into entrepreneurs. This ‘journey’ included in many cases helping young people overcome social barriers, psychological barriers, substance issues, gang issues and many other unique personal issues.

She has challenged some of Sheffield’s hardest to reach young people, engaging them in projects in their own communities with a great success rate. She believes her success has been as a result of where ever possible engaging the entire family in the project.

In 2016 Helena Kiely became joint Director of the Project joining Sophie. Helena Kiely, 28 from Sheffield, is the winner of the Young Women’s Trust ‘Influencer’ award, having used her experience of being out of education to lead a project to help other young people gain skills.

Helena Kiely  4

Helena was brought up in an Irish Traveller family and left school at 11. 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 with a first class degree in Youth and Community Work.While gaining her qualifications, Helena dedicated her spare time to working with the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit, giving a voice to some of the most marginalised members of society.

After completing her degree, Helena wanted to give back to society and started working at Sheffield’s ‘Really NEET College’, which supports young people who are not in employment, education or training. She worked tirelessly with disadvantaged young people, helping them to find hope in education again, like she had done. She was a massive driver in the success of the programmes and helped to engage with over 140 young people a year. In recognition of this work she was made a joint director of the organisation last year.

Helena has shown real determination to overcome barriers in life and has used her experience to help others. She has had a really positive influence on other young people, helping them to realise their potential.

Helena says:

“It was huge surprise to hear I was nominated for the award and I certainly never expected I would win! I have only ever tried to use my own experiences to inform and inspire young people to achieve their goals and this award has given me a huge confidence boost. I look forward to the ceremony and meeting the other women involved.”


Our Really NEET Quote is: ‘Change a young person’s life today, and they may change the world tomorrow’.

Sophie’s favorite quote is: ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure’.