Sophie Maxwell

Passion
“I’m passionate about driving positive change, so many young people get caught up in the chaotic nature of life and get of track from reaching their potential, I believe with the right mentor and support anything is possible, the world is limitless!”

Purpose
“To open up opportunities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and help them to realize their dreams!”

Career
I founded the Really NEET College in March 2011 for young people aged 16-24 to come and learn in an environment that suits them. Prior to that, I successfully beat my previous NEET status aged 14-16, overcoming homelessness aged 16-18, I went on to study first at Norton College to then go onto Sheffield Hallam to graduate in Leisure Events Management in 2009.

Whilst studying at Sheffield Hallam University I 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. I have worked with hundreds of young people and have 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 me to winning two national ‘Crisis – Changing Lives’ Awards including the Linklater prize for Enterprise. I was also awarded the High Sheriff Award for; ‘valuable and devoted services to the community’ and the ‘most disruptive idea’ at Prince Andrew’s Pitch at the Palace.

I started Really NEET with less than 20 pounds in my back pocket. I have had to react to changes in Government, a recession and changes in policy and we have come through the other side a stronger and more diverse organisation. I have built a team of 11 passionate and dedicated staff members that go above and beyond in helping some of society’s most disadvantaged young people to believe and achieve in their education. I have not just had to learn about running a business but also how to successfully hit difficult educational targets and outcomes and undergo close observation through OFSTED and the Matrix Standard. Running the Really NEET Project is also quite an emotional role, you are working with young people who have been through extremely difficult circumstances, some have been abused, some have been to prison, many are homeless, some have come through the care system and many of them are suffering from mental health issues and/or learning difficulties. Every day brings a new challenge, whether it is finding funding, managing staff and ensuring their welfare, finding young people emergency accommodation, taking young people to engage with mental health services, designing the curriculum, delivering training, writing Tenders, developing strategies, liaising with stakeholders and many other elements to the role what I can say is that I have learnt so much in such a short amount of time.