Louise Haywood-Schiefer/The Big Issue
December 08, 2015 09:15 AM

Prince William is a man of his word.

That’s what Sophia Kichou discovered when she was invited to Kensington Palace recently for a rare interview with the royal.

“He’s a prince who keeps his promises, and he’s inspired me in so many ways,” the 24-year-old journalism student at London’s City University tells PEOPLE. “I haven’t even graduated and I have already interviewed Prince William, the future King – I’m hoping this isn’t the peak of my career!”

The promise was forged back in 2011, when Prince William, 33, attended an event for Centrepoint, a charity for homeless youth.

“I was living at a Centrepoint hostel when I met Prince William, and I told him my dream of becoming a journalist,” says Kichou. “He told me that if I continued to pursue my dreams, then one day he would give me an interview.”

That’s how she found herself sitting on Prince William’s sofa at Kensington Palace to conduct an interview for Big Issue magazine, of which a percentage of the profits go directly to the homeless sellers. During the 45-minute interview, the royal dad of two opened up about his plans for a cozy family Christmas in Norfolk.

Prince William meets with former Centrepoint resident Sophia Kichou
Louise Haywood-Schiefer/The Big Issue

It’s not a scene that Kichou herself experienced in childhood much. After losing her mother when she was just 8 years old, she left a dangerous and unstable family home and looked after herself until Centrepoint offered her a warm place to stay as well as mentoring.

“Centrepoint made this all happen and have supported my dream since I came into contact with them – they have been a big part of this journey,” she says.

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During their wide-ranging interview, William and Kichou also spoke about losing their mothers at such an early age, and Kichou was impressed with his sense of empathy and honesty.

“At the beginning, I told him I was a little nervous and I asked him, ‘Are you nervous?’ and he said, ‘Yes I am!’ and we laughed over it. We had seen each other two weeks before at the awards ceremony and he made me promise not to ask him hard questions!”

The pair had indeed seen each only just last month, when Kichou was honored at the launch of the Centrepoint Awards in London.

“Sophia is proof that young people can do whatever it is they set their mind on if they are given the right help,” Chris Gerrard, a Centrepoint spokesperson, tells PEOPLE, adding: “We know that there are at least 136,000 young people approaching their local authority for help with housing every year and that’s something that the Duke and Sophia discussed in their interview. It’s really worrying for Centrepoint and really worrying for the Duke, who takes the issue of youth homelessness really seriously.”

As for Kichou, her advice to anyone who might have fallen on hard times is simply to never lose hope.

“Never doubt your dreams and never give up – perhaps I will be a beacon of hope to young people who are in a similar situation that I was once in.”

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