Today is International Women’s Day, a day on which we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women all over the globe. This year’s theme is #PressforProgress, a powerful call-to-action to unify friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

For us, #PressforProgress means providing the best possible support to enable young care leavers achieve their career goals. The young women we’ve worked with and are currently working with have shown incredible levels of resilience, motivation and aspiration. They have worked so hard to overcome extreme adversity, prejudice and stigma, and progressed from care into a career. Here are some of their inspiring stories:

Shevonne first went into care aged 11. Even from an early age she was aware of the need to write her own story and spent time working out her next move and deciding how she would overcome each hurdle facing her. As part of a recent photo exhibition for Drive Forward she reflected on a place in London that has shaped who she is today choosing London Bridge where she spent time during her youth.

“I’ve been there so many times throughout so many stages of my life, especially during my care experience. Before I was placed into care on a more permanent basis, when I used to run away from home, I would get the 141 or the 149, and I would actual

Shevonne first went into care aged 11. Even from an early age she was aware of the need to write her own story and spent time working out her next move and deciding how she would overcome each hurdle facing her. As part of a recent photo exhibition for Drive Forward she reflected on a place in London that has shaped who she is today choosing London Bridge where she spent time during her youth.

“I’ve been there so many times throughout so many stages of my life, especially during my care experience. Before I was placed into care on a more permanent basis, when I used to run away from home, I would get the 141 or the 149, and I would actually sleep on the bus. It seemed like a better option. It meant I was on the move. I’d get off at London Bridge and watch the boats, just watch people. It was my spot”.

She looks back on the situation she found herself in as a child and reflects on how vulnerable she was.

“If I had a child and my child had done all that, experienced all that, felt like they needed to escape all the time, I would feel like I had failed as a woman and a mother. Whenever I was there, I shouldn’t have been. It’s a miracle I never came to harm. I was only a child. In terms of my home situation, it was never going to work.  I had to become my own mother and father and try to steer myself in the right direction against all odds.” 

Shevonne is positive and ambitious. She was always determined not to allow her past to define her future.

“I was determined to succeed and make the most out of a bad start to life”.

Shevonne graduated with a law degree in 2016 though struggled to find a supportive employer to help her achieve her dream of becoming a solicitor. With the help of Drive Forward she found a role with a Health Regulatory Agency and and is currently funding her LPC with Masters so that she can achieve her dream.

She continues to work with Drive Forward as an ambassador and member of their policy group; she is passionate to support other young people who have left care. Her advice for other young women reflects her resilience and is all about positive attitude

“A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you.” 

You can listen to Shevonne and other inspirational stories on Soundcould. 


Gemma is 23 and became a young carer for her mother at the age of 12. As a single mum, the small family was already in a financially pprecarious position, but her sudden incapacitation at that age made Gemma vulnerable to worse things and people who didn’t have her best interest in mind. Having suffered physical and mental abuse, the girl ended up in care at the age of 16. She has struggled with homelessness, hunger, mental health issues, and made her way through a system which is increasingly hostile to young people in highly vulnerable positions. For her, Drive Forward is one of the few places where she was given the opportunity to succeed on her academic and professional merits, and to define her own experiences.

“When I first came to Drive Forward, I lacked control over my own life. Things were better than they had ever been for me – I wasn’t depressed, I had a home and some opportunities which I was grateful for. But brushes with the system and people who didn’t have my best interests at heart left me feeling powerless when it came to my career, my education, my body and my relationships.

Being given the support I needed from my mentor and emerging into a career which I deeply enjoy has changed that for me. I have a livelihood and some really strong guidance, and with that has come a sense of autonomy which has allowed me to start fulfilling my true potential.

The Drive Forward Foundation have given me a model experience. The staff there filled me with confidence and found me an internship in a workplace where I was nurtured, challenged and developed as a potential employee by the entire staff. I’ve had at least three viable graduate job opportunities open up as a result of the internship and a lot of my fears about my future have been alleviated.”


Jessy was born in China where she lived with her mother, who she describes as “a very strict Chinese parent”. When she was nine years old, her mother sent her to Britain to live with her father, who turned out to be the opposite of the loving and caring parent every child would wish for. After two years, social services took Jessy into care.

Jessy had a hard time adapting to her new surroundings at the children’s home and became involved with people who had a bad influence over her.

Her turning point came when, at the age of 13, she was excluded from school and transferred to a pupil referral unit. Her intrinsic drive and talent began to shine threw and she realised that she can work harder on her education. “I’ve had that ingrained in me: working hard and wanting to be the best.” She asked for more challenging tasks and ended up taking her GCSEs early. “From there, I realised I could really achieve things and… that gave me the drive to try harder.”

Jessy worked very hard indeed, excelling at her A-levels and starting a degree at King’s College London a year early.

Unlike other care leavers in higher education who get support from their local council up to the age of 25, Jessy relies on a student loan and bursary to make ends meet. This is because when she turned 15, the authorities wanted her to move back to China. Jessy refused and lost all entitlements to future social services. When she came out of care, she did not have a place to stay, no income or other support. If it had not been for her cousin and boyfriend, the 16-year-old girl would have ended up on the street.

“Two years ago, I was working in Greggs… I’ve been working through most of my degree. In my first year, I was working as a waitress in Shoreditch for four nights a week after uni, coming home at 2am, getting up, going to uni. So it’s been really hard.”

Las year, however, Jessy was interning at Flamingo, an insight and brand consultancy and one of Drive Forward’s oldest corporate partners. Jessy first visited the company on one of our Aim Higher Days, “Flamingo was full of young people and the office was really bright and colourful… I left Flamingo thinking I love this, I’d love to work here.” She then met her future mentor, Kieron, at an HR Speed Dating session. A few meetings and chats about Jessy’s dreams and career aspirations later, he introduced her to a colleague who works in Flamingo’s digital forensics department. His colleague was equally impressed and quickly offered Jessy a summer internship.

With just a year to go until she graduates, Jessy is looking forward to the future. “I just want to be living a life where I feel like I’m doing something that I’m enjoying and using all of my capacity as a person.”

*For the protection of the young people working with us names and details may have been changed.