Saints Foundation Helps Jess Overcome Adversity

“I don’t think any of us can understand the challenges Jess has faced but she’s still been able to come to school, achieve what she has and then be a key part of our projects in such a short space of time, she really is phenomenal.”

The words of Saints Foundations Community Champion James about Jess Vallis a remarkable young woman who has overcome adversity to achieve success with the Club Community Organisation.

Now aged 17, Jess started her journey with Saints Foundation in Year 9 at the age of 14. The young carer from Harefield in Southampton was struggling to balance school life with caring responsibilities for her disabled brother, often coming into school tired, struggling to focus and stay in lessons, and not having many opportunities to take time for herself.

Jess was referred to James at Saints Foundation for one-to-one mentoring. Jess felt that she didn’t fit in with her peers, and people did not understand and had no empathy for the challenges she faced both at home and at school.

Consequently, not only did she bottle her feelings up whilst at school but began to do the same around her family, so not to be seen as a burden to the challenges that they all, already had to face.

James worked with Jess to help and support her in being more open with her parents about these issues. Sadly, Jess’s brother then passed away. She credits the network she had built with James’ support and the tools she was given, in helping her when she returned to school.

Jess said: “I came back to school, I had my PE teachers to support me, James was there too and it was nice for me to see my whole network come together.”

Jess recently started her own coaching journey with Saints Foundation and their Premier League Kicks programme. She is putting her skills to good use coaching young people from the local area who are at risk of anti-social behaviour.

Her journey overcoming adversity was recognised this year when the Foundation awarded her the ‘Jordan Wilsher Award’, an award (pictured centre) that recognises people that have overcome adversity to achieve success.

James said: “The Jordan Willsher Award is very close to our hearts. I think the journey Jess has been on is incredible. It is truly inspiring, and she fully deserves this award.”

Southampton and Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu met Jess, an aspiring goalkeeper herself, at one of her sessions to present her with the award.