AN AUTISTIC teen from St Albans has been described as an “inspiration” to all young people after overcoming fears thanks to his determination to succeed in life.

The Big Skills Awards, run by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), recognises people who have improved their life or the lives of others through learning.

Mark Boxer was presented with the Skills for Work award at a glamorous ceremony in Stevenage on Tuesday night.

The 19-year-old, who suffers from high-functioning autism, severe speech and language delays as well as diabetes, combines his business and retail studies at Oakland College with part-time employment at Waitrose in Welwyn Garden City.

When he left special school at the age of 16, Mark said he was not sure how his future would unfold, but he believes his life turned around when he started at the college and says he is “proud of having entered main stream education”.

As part of his course, Mark had an interview for work experience with Waitrose. The company were so impressed with the teenager they offered him one day paid work a week.

Ela Nisbet, teacher at Oaklands College, said: “Mark has many plans and dreams and I have no doubt that he will be able to accomplish much more in life. His achievements provide a real inspiration for young people.”

Mark, who was determined not to let his disabilities get in the way, has overcome fears such as travelling on public transport, which he has conquered with the help of travel training by the college. He has even gone on to pass his driving test.

Speaking of his delight at being crowned the overall winner in his category, Mark said: “My life is so different now because I have had all this training. I am so happy because I used to think I could not do what other people do.

“But now I know I can do most things I want.”

Mark says he has the confidence to move on in life and do what he wants, and he named one of his ambitions as learning to play the drums and hopefully to be in a rock band one day.

At the ceremony, Mark was presented with a certificate, trophy and an experience day voucher by BBC sport presenter Ray Stubbs, who launched the Big Skill in January this year.