In 2016, at the age of 14, I left school as I was the victim of persistent bullying which required intervention. The bullying had taken many forms, including digitally, which left me feeling ‘invaded’ as it carried on even when I was home.
I became home-educated and after a few months, my mum arranged an evening visit for me to look around the local Sea Cadet Unit. I was surprised that the discipline and structure of the evening was just what I needed, and I attended again the following week and have continued ever since.
I found the structure of the Sea Cadet Corps very supportive and the Cadet Training Programme (CTP) particularly engaging. Part of this programme included the CVQO BTEC Level 1, which I achieved with my rank progression, and it inspired me to apply to my local college to see if I could do something similar. My interview at college went well, as I was able to talk about the Advanced Sea Cadet Catering Course that I had just passed at the Sea Cadet Training Centre (SCTC) HMS Raleigh.
I had travelled by train from Essex to Cornwall on my own, which is something the Corps train us to do. Since then, after achieving my NVQ Level 1 in Catering and Hospitality, Level 2 Foundation Studies in English, a Maths GCSE and was awarded the 14 – 16 Student of The Year, I also with CVQO, achieved my Level 2 BTEC in Teamwork and Personal Development in the Community through the Sea Cadets.
With these awards and qualifications came a new confidence, and I started applying for more courses within the Corps. I applied for bursaries and saved up my own money from birthdays and Christmas to fund them and have since spent a few weeks offshore gaining qualifications; navigating across the English Channel, have taken an internal flight to Glasgow to join one of the Sea Cadet Yachts off Oban and travelled to SCTC HMS Caledonia to study meteorology with the Corps too.
I became a British Canoeing Instructor, a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Safety Boat and Power Boat Instructor and a Sea Cadet Rowing Instructor and have received the Master Coxswain Award, which is the highest waterborne award that a Sea Cadet can achieve. The CVQO qualifications really gave me the foundation on which to build and raise my confidence.
Then, even though I didn’t have the necessary qualifications for the course, I applied for a BTEC Level 3 in Sports at my local 6th Form College. It was no surprise that my interview was mostly about my Sea Cadet achievements, and not only did I gain an English GCSE alongside the 1st year of the course, but the college adapted it to accommodate my watersports and I was awarded the Student of the Year when I finished the 2nd year with Distinctions.
I decided during the first Covid lockdown to reach out to my fellow Sea Cadets and the Royal Naval Association with weekly phone calls to make sure they were ok. This assistance progressed to providing hot meals and befriending calls to the vulnerable in my community and supporting the wider Sea Cadet Corps with suggestions for a way forward on a virtual platform.
I passed my Petty Officer Cadet Promotion Board virtually, to reach the highest cadet rank within the Corps, became a CVQO Westminster Award finalist and achieved my ILM Level 3 qualification in Leadership and Management.
Over the summer, I taught paddle sport to almost 500 cadets and staff from the Army and Sea Cadets and have found that I have great skills with people who are anxious on the water. Also, as a result of my services to the community, I have officially received the British Empire Medal from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in her 2020 Birthday Honours List.