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Drive Forward was literally the best experience I’ve ever had

The Drive Forward Foundation supports young care leavers to take charge of their futures and achieve their career goals. We spoke to Rachel, who took part in one of their creative programmes which builds the transferable skills needed for working on hands-on projects.

How did you hear about Drive Forward and why did you decide to get involved with them?
I heard about it from a careers advisor at university. I was going through a really sad time, and because I didn’t have anything regular to do she thought it would be a good idea to go along to one of the courses.

What was your initial experience of Drive Forward like?
I was very nervous and anxious because I didn’t know what to expect. On my first day I didn’t feel good, but they told me I didn’t have to be there but I could get something really good out of this and make a lot of friends – but you’ve got to try. By the end of the two weeks I can’t imagine not doing it now, and it was literally the best experience I’ve ever had. I felt so happy to be there and felt like I belonged to something.

I was just amazed at how friendly everyone was. When I couldn’t make the appointment that they gave me a few weeks later, I thought they would be so mad at me and tell me off – but they were so nice. There’s no pressure and they don’t get mad at you because it’s completely your choice whether you go and what you get involved with, so it gives you some independence. You feel like you’re doing it for yourself, which pushes me because I don’t do a lot of things for myself.

How do you think you have changed since joining Drive Forward and beginning their courses?
One of the people who was on my last course was on my current one as well and we’ve stuck together like glue. I helped him build his CV, which is not something I would have found myself doing before because I would have felt too shy to offer my help. I feel like I can talk to people more and express myself better. I still apologise way too much, but it’s part of me – it’s a British thing.

When you’ve been off from something like work or school it can be really hard to integrate yourself, but my careers advisor at Drive Forward just makes me feel amazing and like I can do whatever I want to do. I remember in my first meeting when I told her my grades she said you really need to go back to university, you’re really smart, you’re really intelligent. She put me on a pedestal and made me feel like I can do it, I just need to apply myself. I feel like she really cares and wants me to succeed. It’s nice to have that sort of backing.

Are there any other opportunities that you’ve really enjoyed?
The careers course was really good – but apart from that the whole thing is really enjoyable. It’s a really nice atmosphere to be around, and everyone is really friendly and kind. It’s the kind of environment that makes you want to keep coming back. I’ve only been there for a few weeks but you already feel like you know everyone.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Drive Forward?
Just go with it, because you never know where it’s going to take you. Your journey is going to be completely unique to you, and it will be the best thing for you. If you don’t like it at first don’t beat yourself up about it. Just keep going, and by the end of it you’ll be able to see whether it was worth it or not.

Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the care leaver.