Joel, 18, from Birmingham, grew up in a one bedroom flat shared with his mother and eight siblings. He experienced violence growing up, became terrified of confrontation, and was put into care aged seven.
Over the next 10 years, Joel was placed with around 15 foster families and four care homes. It was a constant upheaval. Feeling unable to connect with anyone and desperate to fit in, Joel began rebelling and got into trouble with the police.
Life took a turn for the better when Joel moved into a private care home he began to study music at college, which he loved, but fell behind when his care home closed and he was moved into alternative accommodation.
Lacking in confidence and uncomfortable in his own skin, Joel’s accommodation support worker referred him to Make your Mark, a four-week employability programme run in partnership with Marks & Spencer.
"I wasn’t doing much except sitting around all day so I thought I may as well check it out. I nearly didn’t go to the taster day for the programme. I was that nervous. But I did and it gave me my life back."
Joel felt a connection between himself, other staff and the customers, and showed real flair in his work. He now works for Marks and Spencer full-time, and feels a huge passion for the organisation. He’s responsible for the customer services department at a brand new store.
This is only the beginning for Joel, an incredibly strong and brave young man. He recently won the M&S Spotlight Customer Service Award.
"I remember seeing a guy stand up on the taster day and do a speech in front of us. He was so brave to do it. But, three months later I was doing exactly the same thing. It is scary, but you do it because you want to inspire other people to sign up and change their lives, like I have."
He has started rebuilding his relationships with his family and hopes to become a service coordinator at Marks & Spencer.