OVERCOMING OBSTACLES: Nicole Quinn has returned to education after spending almost a year in foster care as a child. Picture: Mark Mainz
But, having turned her life around, the 18-year-old is being recognised among women who have made a significant impact on Scottish society.
The teenager, from Glasgow's east end, is to receive the Community Award at Action For Children Scotland's 13th annual Woman of Influence Award ceremony.
She will receive the trophy at a lunch on Sunday, March 17 at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow.
The nominees in contention for the main award are Olympic gold medallist Katherine Grainger CBE; broadcaster and Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark; Sandy Brindley, national co-ordinator for Rape Crisis Scotland; NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's director of public health Dr Linda de Caestecker; and Lloyds Banking Group Scotland's managing director Lady Susan Rice CBE.
Previous winners have included Helen Liddell, Lorraine Kelly, Elaine C Smith, JK Rowling, Nicola Benedetti and Ann Gloag.
The winner of the 2013 title will be announced at the sold-out event, which is expected to raise more than £80,000 to help Action for Children Scotland support vulnerable children, young people and their families.
Community Award-winner Nicole, who is now a student of child health and social care at John Wheatley College in Easterhouse, was in her second year at St Andrew's Secondary in Carntyne when she was placed in foster care.
"When I was first put into care, I felt so alone. I felt as if I had nobody," said Nicole.
"If people are in care for a long time, it could continue to be like that. When you feel like you don't want to do anything – you don't want to leave your room.
"That's why this award is important. If somebody realises that you can still go out nd do stuff after being through a lot, then they might try instead of being depressed all the time."
Nicole was looked after for almost a year before being reunited with her mother.
According to a Scottish Government report, 88% of children who have spent time in care leave school at 16 or younger, compared to only 34% of all schoolchildren.
In a survey of 2010/11 school-leavers, 55% of looked-after children were in a positive destination compared with 87% of all school leavers.
Nicole left school at 15 without any qualifications, and spent 18 months with no education, training or employment prospects, battling low self-esteem and depression.
Then a teacher, Donna Cunningham, who had spotted her potential at school, recommended her for Transitions, a project operated by Action for Children Scotland that works to encourage young people who have been looked after into higher education.
Interview skills training helped win her a place on a one-year college course, after which Nicole wants to pursue a career in nursing or psychology.
Carol Iddon, director of children's services at Action for Children UK North, said: "Nicole is a worthy winner. She is an inspiration and shows how much young people can achieve given the right opportunities and support."
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