A Sunderland teenager’s dream of starting his own tree surgery business is alive and kicking thanks to his kind-hearted former teachers who helped him access support for travel costs to college.
Lewis Hodgson, 17, has his sights set on a career as a tree surgeon in Australia or Canada.
But the weekly expense of paying £15 in bus fares in a four-hour daily round trip from his Pennywell home to East Durham College was proving too much.
The financial burden on Lewis and his mother meant he considered quitting the course and looking at other career options, leaving behind his dream of employment planting, maintaining and cutting down trees.
Academy 360 teacher Colin Kinvig heard of former pupil Lewis’ struggle and contacted the Sunderland Boys Fund for financial help to meet the cost of travelling to his Arboriculture course at the college’s Houghall campus.
The Sunderland Boys Fund approved Lewis’ application drawn up with Mr Kinvig and is covering his transport costs with a £60 monthly grant running until July.
It means Lewis can complete his course and gain the first qualifications he needs to pursue his dream career.
“I found out about tree surgery at school when one of the lecturers from college came in and I thought ‘that’s the job for me,” said Lewis, who catches six buses every day to and from his college course.
“Mr Kinvig told me about the fund which has taken the pressure off for me to get to college every day. Spending all my money on bus fares meant I had nothing to spend on food during the day. I don’t like having to borrow money, I want to be able to pay my way in life and be self-sufficient.
“If Mr Kinvig hadn’t got me the funding from the boys’ fund, I was going to knock college on the head.
“I’ve researched being a tree surgeon and I want to work all over Canada and Australia because that’s where your money is made.
“There’s a big demand for our skills and qualifications in Australia. It’s an opportunity to travel the world, to open a new door to a new life.”
Colin, Lewis’ Head of Year while at Academy 360, said: “We kept in touch with Lewis after his GCSEs, he really knuckled down to work in his final year to get five GCSEs.
“I put a bid in for Lewis to the Sunderland Boys Fund to help him and his mam out to cover his bus fares every month.
“If he can get his qualifications then there’s no reason why Lewis can’t make a successful career for himself. There’s a world of opportunity for him and we all think it’s fantastic the way he is applying himself to pursue his dream career.”
Ian Thompson, Chairman of the Sunderland Boys Fund, said: “The trustees were delighted to support Lewis. His determination, through personal challenges, to achieve his dream of employment is commendable and indicated to the trustees that his application was a very worthwhile one.
“He has shown great potential and the trustees would like to wish him every success on this course and in his future endeavours.”
Colin is also pursuing a possible one day a fortnight placement with local landscaping firm Ian Howe Landscaping Limited on Lewis’ behalf to further boost his knowledge and employability.
The Sunderland Boys Fund was established to provide financial help to young people under 25 to support them into work, such as contributions towards travel costs and clothing for job interviews.
Founded in 1858, the fund widened its scope to include girls in 1979. Its trustees comprise Sunderland City councillors and current or retired magistrates.