A TEENAGER with a track record of petty crime and aggressive behaviour today told how she had turned her life around.

Zoe Cardoo, 17, of Gillibrand Street, Darwen, was named North West Development Agency Young Achiever of the Year, organised by the Prince's Trust.

A year ago, Zoe was in a downward spiral of crime after several years of bullying led to her getting in with the "wrong crowd"

. She was referred to the Prince's Trust by the youth offending team and, with the help of a mentor, has now got herself back into education on an NVQ Level One in catering.

And she has secured a placement in the canteen at Training 2000, Blackburn.

The way she transformed her life impressed the judges at the Celebrate Success Awards, in Preston.

Instead of picking fights with people and wasting time, Zoe decided she wanted to change her life and work towards getting a job.

She said her mentor helped calm her aggression by talking things through with her.

She said: "It's an amazing feeling to win this award. Thanks to all the support and encouragement that I have received from the Prince's Trust I'm now able to look forward to my life and to achieving much more.

"I was amazed when I won but it's given me a real boost. My mum was crying her eyes out."

Zoe suffered bullying during her time at Darwen Moorland High School because, as she described herself, she was "chubby."

She said: "They used to call me names and I got beaten up three times in years seven and eight. At first I didn't tell anyone and I used to pretend to be sick to avoid going to school. Eventually I couldn't cope with it anymore and I started fighting back.

"Unfortunately, I got too aggressive and became a bully myself in a way. I got in with a bad crowd and was caught shoplifting. That's when I was sent to the youth offending team and when I started to try to calm down.

"Then I was suspended from school for fighting in Year 11 and felt like I'd messed up the good work I'd done. That's when it hit me I needed to do something about my behaviour and I had to change."

She added: "The Prince's Trust and youth offending team have been brilliant. They provided people I could talk to and trust and who help you do things like CVs and applying for work.

"Everything seemed to get so much better and I just wanted to carry on and be happier. I regretted what I had done."