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A former homeless woman who turned her life around and earned a degree has won a national award after founding an organisation that helps people in similar situations to develop their skills.

Sophie Maxwell, 23, has been awarded a national Crisis Changing Lives Champions Award for founding Adventure Workshops (AW) Education, a mentoring organisation that helps teenagers to foster independence.

After a troubled childhood and years of homelessness, Sophie strove to win places at college then Sheffield Hallam University.

While at University she founded AW Education, which motivates reluctant learners through engaging, practical sessions aiding both personal and social development.

 The organisation gets teenagers engaging positively with education again through unique energetic sessions that are designed to engage children who have found themselves outside of the school system for a variety of reasons.

Sophie founded her social enterprise with help from Sheffield Hallam's Enterprise Centre, which is set up specifically to help students turn their business ideas into reality, and to encourage enterprise and innovation.

Sophie said: "The company helps non-school attenders to re-engage with the national curriculum through modern and progressive practical techniques. Recently, I gave a session which involved teaching Pythagorus in a field and realised just how far I've come since getting the help I needed from the Enterprise Centre."

Now Sophie, 23, has been chosen from over 215 entries to win both the Crisis Changing Lives New Talent Award and the Linklaters Young Enterprise Award 2010.

Sophie Maxwell

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She is one of five Changing Lives Champions – previously homeless people from across the UK who have transformed their lives in the face of adversity.

Sheila Quairney, business and enterprise manager at Sheffield Hallam, said: "We are delighted that Sophie has won this award as she has worked so hard to develop her business idea. She is yet another example of a student who has come to us for help to develop their enterprise and gone on to great things after graduation.

"This is Sophie's award but we are delighted to have played our part in helping her to achieve it."

Daisy McAndrew, ITV News Economics Editor, who presented the award, said: “Sophie impressed us with her initiative and sheer dedication. Her energy, creativity and resourcefulness are an inspiration, not only to the young people she mentors, but to all in the business world.”

For press information contact:Laurie Harvey on 0114 225 2621 or email