Ashlea recently told her story in this video for Everton in the Community. View it here by clicking on this link.
Poppy Comer joined Everton Free School after being asked to leave her previous school where her lack of engagement in learning led to confrontations with staff and poor levels of attendance.
Three years later the 18-year-old is looking forward to a bright future.
After achieving six GCSEs at Everton Free School, Poppy, through hard work and determination, earned herself an apprenticeship at the club and the early months of next year will mark the completion of an NVQ Level 3 in Sports Development.
Alongside her studies, Poppy took a trip of a lifetime to South Africa. She raised £1300 and, together with the club’s donation of £200, Poppy travelled to Capetown with HQ Coaching where she visited 10 different schools and carried out coaching sessions with pupils aged 5-19.
She also delivered an assembly to more than 1,500 students and staff about being a role model and their importance to young children. See the video here:
Poppy said: “South Africa was an eye-opening experience for me.
“The children and pupils appreciate absolutely everything that is being offered to them. The children welcomed me with a song too which was incredible.
“I’d love to return to South Africa at some stage to continue to support the children we have met.”
Poppy also won the Sky Sports Community award for her involvement and support with the Liverpool Homeless Football Club. Read more here:
So what now for Poppy?
She is a lead coach for Everton in the Community, working on the Premier League’s Girls Football Programme which helps females aged 11 and over to take part in sport in a local community setting.
It means she can repay the trust placed in her, and ensure that football can benefit from the next generation of women in the community in the same way it helped her: “I am getting girls who’ve never played football and who think they can’t play coming to a football session each week, and to see the difference is amazing.”
And, looking ahead further, she hopes to return to South Africa: “I want to go back with my own project that is backed by the club. That’s the dream.”
Deputy Principal of Everton Free School, Claire Lamontagne, has closely followed Poppy’s journey from day one and she has urged her to keep on pursuing her dreams.
She said: “I’ve known Poppy since she was 11 years old and I have seen her flourish into a mature and professional young lady.
“She has achieved so much and she should be proud of where she is today. I’m sure she will continue to work hard to achieve her dreams and she is the perfect role model for all other students to achieve their dreams too.
“They can look at Poppy’s journey and see anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
- 1st year NVQ activity leadership award
- First Aid Certificate
- Safeguarding Certificate
- FA Level 1 Football Coaching Badge
- Level 1 Basketball Coaching Badge
- Level 1 & 2 Dodgeball Coaching Badge
- Community Sports Leader Award
- Higher Sports Leader Award
- Manager of the Season Award presented by Club Ambassador Graham Stuart
- Barclays Spirit of the Game Award presented by first-team stars Ross Barkley and Leighton Baines
Growing up, Zack went through a number of issues at home which resulted in him struggling at school, weighed down by personal problems.
At 12, Zack was put into care: he started running away on numerous occasions and getting into trouble at school, resulting in him being sent home.
He freely admits that his future didn’t look good before joining Everton Free School but that from day one, he knew things were going to be different.
“The first day I joined was like a breath of fresh air. Although I was new, the students were so nice and the teachers were really welcoming. I knew if I had any worries I could talk to people; my life really started to turn around.”
Zack found himself flourishing at Everton Free School and he was making the most of the fantastic opportunities available to him which resulted in him coaching, meeting players, interviewing Everton legends and attending games at Goodison Park.
“I was getting the best opportunities that I thought kids my age could only dream of.”.
In November 2014 Zack was sworn in as one of 12 Young Lord Mayors representing secondary schools across the city and attended a special ceremony at the Town Hall where he was honoured and given his prestigious title.
The role of Young Lord Mayor gives young people the opportunity to voice their opinions and discuss and raise awareness of the issues affecting Liverpool’s young people as well as shadowing the Lord Mayor at events across the city. It helped Zack’s confidence to soar.
Everton Free School has a number of elected Captains who serve as ambassadors and are on hand to assist with any issues their fellow students might have. Zack became Captain for the whole school and at the 2013/14 End of Season Awards was announced as Everton Free School Captain of the Year and presented with a trophy on stage by James McCarthy and Gareth Barry.
“At Everton Free School I was given more responsibility which helped me to grow as a person. It proves that whatever your background, whatever path you once had is not important; once you put your mind to it you can do anything you want to do.”
Zack completed his GCSEs and gained other qualifications such as Level One Sports Leader Award as well as Level One and Two in both Preparation for Working Life and Personal Social Education; before being supported by the Breathing Space Project and undertaking an Apprenticeship with Everton in the Community.
Planting a seed and helping our students to grow and flourish is Everton Free School’s primary aim.
And finding the key to unlock the solution is paramount…
Kaes was a young man who struggled to attend school five days a week. He says: “I was going to different schools and getting sent home all the time.
“But when I got to Everton Free School I started being good at school.”
It was noticed that Kaes excelled when he was working on the Prince’s Trust programme. And a talent was spotted which the school helped to nurture, horticulture.
Since then, as well as the horticulture about which he is passionate, it is Kaes himself who has grown the most.
Principal Richard Cronin says: “He had a real flair and knowledge around planting and shrubbery. When we asked him about it he said he would read about it and research things on websites.
“We introduced him to the head groundsman at Finch Farm, Everton’s training ground, and they offered him a placement, one day a week.
“He absolutely thrived there: the fellas loved him, his work ethic, his attention to detail and his respectfulness shone through, so much so that they offered him an apprenticeship in arboriculture.”
The apprenticeship was to begin on May 22, 2018.
Connor struggled with the early years of education, and he would freely admit to being a ‘pain in the backside’ at school.
“When I was at school I didn’t really like the education system and I used to play up a little bit,” he says. “But I managed to get through school without being thrown out and I decided I wanted to be involved in football.”
After joining Everton Free School in the sixth form Connor developed a passion for coaching.
Principal Richard Cronin explains: “Connor really enjoyed coaching, so much so that he volunteered with Everton in the Community’s Kicks Programme.
“They recognised that as a coach with young people he shone and excelled. He did his Level 1 and Level 2 FA Coaching Awards.”
While Connor was in the sixth form he fund-raised £1,500 so that he could go to South Africa to Cape Town and work with young people in the townships. And the experience transformed his life.
“He saw the different culture, the extremes of poverty – and the penguins he saw that blew his mind!” says Richard.
“And he saw, working with these young people, that while they had very little, they were very happy.
“It gave him a perspective, and a very positive mindset.”
After that experience, Everton in the Community offered Connor paid work and he is currently working as a coach.
Connor says: “I couldn’t be any happier. The Everton in the Community programme is up there among the best and I know I’m part of that, and that potentially I can make people’s lives better.”