Lee was supported by our Sensational Learning Centre. Here he shares the story of his journey and how he’s now looking forward to a future filled with opportunities.

I came to the Sensational Learning Centre five years ago.

I had stopped attending school three years before that because my anxiety was so bad. In those three years, I was really isolated. In fact, the TV became my only friend during that time. I had no social life, no friends, no interaction with anyone. Instead, I was supporting my parents who have hearing difficulties. The stress and anxiety were bad, and I knew it couldn’t go on.

At first, I couldn’t face coming into the Sensational Learning Centre and instead made a slow transition in. Someone from the Centre would visit me at home, to get to know me and to help me make the move. I thought I’d hate it here as I’d had such a bad experience in school. At school, I had felt like I was just a statistic and not a pupil with thoughts and feelings, when in reality, the feelings of anxiety regularly caused me to suffer panic attacks.

But quite quickly I realised this place was different. I learned how to learn, and I was treated as a whole, real person. They actually cared. It was a more kind, thoughtful and encouraging place to be. It was such a relief to have somewhere to come to each day, away from the stress of being at home full time, and having a routine really helped me.

It was hard at first adjusting to new surroundings and new people. I was really shy and nervous and not able to speak to anyone. Now I can actually hold a conversation! And in fact, I’m presenting at this week’s assembly. I never thought I’d ever do something like that.

The Sensational Learning Centre has given me confidence, skills, life skills and ambition and aspirations to take on challenges. I never thought I’d achieve but the staff have encouraged me to break the boundaries of what’s considered normal.

More than five years ago I thought my future as a young adult would be bleak. Stuck at home, no education, no qualifications, no job. But now, I’m heading to college to study Computer Science. I never believed I could do that.

I have a much brighter outlook now.

It’s a big jump for me and I do feel quite nervous. I’ll be away from home for the first time but the life skills I’ve learned will be a massive help. Like banking, managing utility bills, budgeting and cooking. I’ve also been project managing both the end of year assembly and sports day events and I’ve learned so much doing this too.

I’ve completed a work experience placement with the Donaldson Trust Digital Project team and that has helped me enormously to prepare me for studying and working in IT. I’m going to continue this as a volunteer with the Trust which is great as it means I’ll still get to see everyone from time to time.

I’ve always been encouraged to do my best, to have ambitions when I didn’t have any. I’ve loved my time at Donaldsons, and I’ll be quite sad to leave. But I’m excited for my future now and everyone here has helped me to get there.

My advice to anyone thinking about coming here like I did is to trust the process, listen to the teachers and staff as they do know what’s best, give it time and when you first get here, don’t be scared. Try making small talk with others, you’ll find them funny and kind.

If I was to sum up the Sensational Learning Centre in three words, they would be Fun, Nurturing and Community. It really is a place where they make it personal to you and give you the support to think and speak for yourself.

I’ve come such a long way and I feel really proud of this massive achievement. Before I felt like I had no control of my story, and now thanks to Donaldsons, I’m holding the pen and author of my own future. I can’t thank everyone enough for helping me write this new chapter of my life.

While my story has had lots of ups and downs, it’s only up from here from now on.