A young Lurgan man who lived through the trauma of addiction and losing his brother to suicide has won an award from The Prince’s Trust.
The Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense Awards recognise young people who have succeeded against the odds, improved their chances in life and had a positive impact on their local community.
Kevin Lennon, aged 28, who now works for M&S, scooped the L’Oréal Paris Rising Star Award, which is presented to young people who have overcome barriers and are in sustainable employment.
“Before working with The Prince’s Trust, I didn’t think I had a life, I felt like it was over at one point,” he said.
“I didn’t do as well in school as I knew I could. I’d wake up and struggle to find the willpower to do anything. That’s when I started getting into drugs and it had a hugely negative impact on me.
“I didn’t have any structure in my life. I had nothing to do and was suffering badly with depression. In the summer of 2020, I fell and broke my back. While recovering from surgery, my granny passed away. Then just seven months later, my brother died by suicide.
“That was when I knew I had to make a positive change. I had been struggling with addiction for years and my life was a mess, but I had to get off drugs. I stopped doing everything that I knew and joined The Prince’s Trust.”
Kevin joined the trust’s Get into Retail programme with Marks and Spencer in 2022 and gained the self-belief that he needed to achieve his goals.
He added: “The Prince’s Trust helped me get on the right path. I met so many people who wanted the best for me. By the time I started my work placement at M&S, I really felt at home and loved every minute. The programme brought the best out in me. I want so much more out of life now, I have ambitions – not doubts.
“The Prince’s Trust really helped with my confidence. I’m not naturally outgoing and my addictions had had such an impact on my mental health that speaking to new people had become hard. I had to learn it all again.
“On the day of the programme celebration event, my grandad was rushed into hospital. Before he passed away, my mum told him I got the job at M&S. I get some comfort from knowing that he knew how well I was doing.
“Thinking back, The Prince’s Trust saved my life. If I didn’t have my job and the mindset I developed through this course, I wouldn’t have been strong enough to get through this.
“I want so much out of life now, I’m learning how to drive, I want to go travelling and see the world. Those are all things that just two years ago, I never thought I’d be able to do.
“I get goosebumps when I think about how far I’ve come. Looking forward, I would like to help people affected by addiction and suicide. It would mean so much to me to support them through what I know can be a really tough time.”
Kevin described winning the award as “amazing”.
He said: “I’d like to thank the teams at The Prince’s Trust and Marks and Spencer’s for believing in me. I’m so grateful for the opportunities and stability I have in my life now.”
Congratulating Kevin, Caroline O’Neill, general manager at L’Oréal Paris UK and Ireland, said he was an “outstanding winner …and an important example to others”.
“When you believe in yourself and your worth, you can achieve anything. We wish you all the best for the future and we have no doubt you will go on to achieve great things,” she said.