Today Emilio Prince is a picture of strength – arms outstretched firmly on the steering wheel of an American muscle car.
His movie star stare for the camera radiating the power of an award winning performer on the rise, living his dream as an Elvis Presley impersonator.
You wouldn’t know that six years ago those same arms were desperately outstretched for help.
Emilio's high school hell
Emilio had to overcome challenges most people are spared to get to school.
Both his parents were abusive alcoholics.
The one man who believed in him – his grandfather had died in front of him when he was 10.
School yard bullies circled taunting him for his sexuality.
Emilio almost lost hope, attempting to take his own life.
His Grandfather’s last words came back to him and saved him then – “live your dreams and take care of your grandmother”.
He kept his arms outstretched for help.
Enter The Helmsman Project
The Helmsman Project Co-Founder Andrew Stainer took his hand.
The successful investment banker and management consultant founded the charity to help year 9 students at risk of losing the transformative power of education.
“There’s been nothing more rewarding that I’ve done outside of my family,” Andrew said.
As a young man in the UK, Andrew found trouble and knew not everyone had the support he did to get back on track.
He first noticed that Emilio wasn’t short of hope.
“His outstretched hand demonstrated he was prepared to reach out, take advice and act on it,” he said.
The unlikely couple worked together to build Emilio’s resilience, self-regulatory skills and turn things around.
It started with encouraging Emilio to apply to his school’s musical opera.
Then to take setbacks in his stride when he was knocked back.
“The thrust of the Helmsman coaching is resilience. There’s always setbacks, turns in the road and falls. The challenge is to not give up on yourself. Re-engage with the vision you have and learn from the knockbacks,” Andrew told him.
A passionate sailor, Emilio learned that on Sydney Harbour, climbing into the rigging and winning a new perspective from up high.
“The Helmsman Project helped me with my depression, the fact that I thought I wouldn't get anywhere in my life. The Project definitely changed my views. A year before The Helmsman Project, I didn't feel wanted, loved, or cared by anyone in my life,” Emilio said.
The man in the tux
This year Emilio reached back out to The Helmsman Project.
The team were thrilled to see a confident, brave young man pursuing his dream to sing.
“I really couldn't have done all this without the passion of the likes of people like Andrew and Jo. This program has taught me resilience, hope and self-regulation,” he said.
For Andrew it was proof that helping and working with others is a win-win.
“I was a little bit overcome. He appears to have taken everything on board. Much more importantly he had the strength to continue to persevere in the face of adversity in pursuing his dreams. I don’t think any of us can aspire to much more than that,” Andrew said.
Written by Conor Duffy, National Education Reporter for the ABC and ambassador of The Helmsman Project.