Former addict changes his life and wins award

15th May 2009 at 01:00

A former cocaine addict who spent 35 years in and out of prison and living on the streets has been named the outstanding learner of the year by Niace, the adult learning body.

Frank Harris, 49, (right) who is studying for an national vocational qualification in supporting homeless and vulnerable people at City Lit in London, turned his life around in just four years.

He began studying in prison, gaining A-grade GCSEs and the confidence to pursue two counselling courses. On his release, he joined City Lit's Move project, which helped him to find work.

Mr Harris now works supporting people with addictions and the homeless. Last year he helped to set up the School of High Achievement in north London, which aims to boost the educational chances of Afro-Caribbean children.

He said: "No teacher ever turned to me to say, `What's really wrong with you, Frank? Why are you getting expelled? If you don't buck up, this is the only chance you've got at school.' I just want to say that to as many boys as possible."

Mr Harris is one of 12 individual and nine group winners of Niace accolades. Others include Barrie Hughes, who learned to read and write at the age of 58, and Kushti Bok, a group for Gypsies and Travellers that has helped more than 100 people gain qualifications.

Comment, page 6

Niace accolades

National Award Winners

Frank Harris, London

Danny West, south-east London

Maria Gough, Harlow, Essex

Reha Ali, north London

Ged Bretherton, Warrington

Barrie Hughes, West Sussex

The Graham Family, Lancashire

Gerildine Talbot, Leeds

Cath Mitchell, Newcastle upon Tyne

Darren Bailey, Lancaster

Voldis Kudliskis, Devon

Najib Rasooli, Sheffield

Group award winners

Jobjunction Employment Partnership at Birmingham airport

Streetlife Soccer, Norwich

Go Higher, Liverpool

In Touch Volunteers, Manchester

Practice Plan, Oswestry

Kushti Bok, Dorchester, Dorset

Marion Richardson Primary School, Tower Hamlets, east London

First Buses Learning Group

Tansley House Care Home, Matlock, Derbyshire.

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