For me school was hard, and the atmosphere was even worse due to having autism, so learning wasn’t something I did well. I preferred making trouble then being told to do my work. I left school with no qualifications to my name and no plans to change that.
When I arrived [at prison], I did my educational assessment and they noticed that I couldn’t read well at all, which I had successfully hidden from everyone until now, so they referred me to the Shannon Trust charity that is set up here. It changed everything for me. I gained more then I ever thought possible thanks to my mentors and Shannon Trust.
My mentors went above and beyond to help me especially with phonics, my first mentor even made phonics cards so that I could continue learning during lock up. They weren’t just my mentors anymore they became a friend and supporter, someone I could trust to go to when I couldn’t understand something, they even gave me the confidence to apply for some courses that the prison provides. I now have customer service and warehouse safety qualifications, which was something I never thought was an option for me especially with my autism.
Thanks to my mentors and Shannon Trust, I have achieved more than I thought I could or would, so I decided I wanted to be that someone for others who may need it. Once I completed my course, I immediately signed up to become a Shannon Trust mentor. As a recent learner it gives me such valuable insight on how to bring turning pages across to my learners which I found has helped create connections and comradery a lot smoother. It has also been such a confidence booster because I feel like I’m making a difference to others instead of doing nothing whilst I serve my sentence. Being a mentor has given me more of a purpose.
Going forward I plan to continue being a part of Shannon Trust and continue to help others the way I was helped, to be that support to my learners, to be a person they can come to knowing there isn’t any judgement because not that long ago I was them.
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