Alumni: Daniel’s story

To mark our 25th anniversary, Daniel kindly shares his story of attending Red Balloon Cambridge and where life has taken him since.

Life before Red Balloon

“I had an awful time at my first senior school; I was bullied horrendously. I arrived late in the year and I was the outsider and found it hard to make friends. It just went from bad to worse really, the teachers were not supportive and it rapidly reached the point where I didn’t have any friends at all at school and I was miserable.

“When I left my first senior school I was pretty torn up. I was ill with post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and anxiety. So that wreaked havoc in my mind and in my brain. I just couldn’t cope with the full-on social stuff and the workload. So I had to leave my second school too, after which I spent about a year in a psychiatric hospital. I’d had to take a lot of time out at that point and I was feeling hopeless. I wondered “what the hell is going to happen to my education? Am I going to have to be home-schooled? What’s going to happen with University?”

“It was at that point that I came to Red Balloon. I was about 15 and had been out of education for a year. My medication had been adjusted so that I was just about in a good enough state to manage out of the hospital and sort of function. But I wasn’t well enough to go to mainstream education, and that’s what was going on for me when I joined Red Balloon.

Supportive and relaxed

“Things at Red Balloon were different to my previous schools; it was quieter, more relaxed, and it felt more comfortable. The teachers were very supportive, and there was a big sense of them wanting me to do well. They were kind, encouraging, motivating, treated me as an equal and as someone to be respected, which was a big important thing to me.

I think my biggest achievement while at Red Balloon, corny and obvious though it may sound, was actually getting GCSEs; because I didn’t think that would be possible when I joined. But I got my A and my A-stars so I was happy with that. Just getting through was the biggest achievement I could have hoped for. I am now studying Pharmacology at University, as well as setting up my own pharmacology business.

Life without Red Balloon

“If I hadn’t gone to Red Balloon, honestly I’d probably be back in the psychiatric hospital. For one thing I definitely wouldn’t have managed in mainstream education. Red Balloon absolutely prepared me for the future. It taught me a lot about managing social interactions as well as treating others as equal. Being on equal terms with teachers with first names, I think that was definitely one of the things that enabled me to form my network of pharmacology contacts, which is what got me where I am today.”