Stories
Mark Snowdon

When the opportunity arose to coach a young person struggling to find their way I was more than happy to offer my time to a worthwhile cause.

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I would go on to be paired with a young person, who at first was uncomfortable engaging conversation with an adult on a one-to-one basis. In the following weeks we would meet regularly to discuss a number of issues and concerns that would have never been shared with family, friends and teachers, which built the foundations for a mutual trust without the pressure of being judged or feeling humiliated.

By using the simple speaking and listening techniques we were taught [as volunteers], this young person was able to independently identify aspects of his life that he was not satisfied with and managed to piece together an action plan to address them, which included short term and long-term personal targets.

Being more suited to a practical and ‘hands-on’ approach to learning, the long term target was to be accepted for an apprenticeship in mechanics or engineering. The coaching programme played a significant role in developing the self-confidence and maturity required to make this target a reality.

Shortly after completing the programme, this final and monumental ambition was achieved. Without the help of Youth at Risk, this could have so easily become the old familiar story of a young person underachieving without receiving the support needed to help him reach his potential. It is very clear that programmes such as this one are absolutely necessary to help transform the lives of young people.

Youth at Risk proved to be a most innovative, creative and ‘outcome driven’ organisation with a sincere commitment to empowering each individual on the course.

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The trainers were professional and dynamic but also approachable and realistic. What’s more important is that they were all overflowing with ‘life skills’, which enabled them to deal with any of the issues raised in the training room.

As the programme came to a close it was extremely heartening to see the improvement in trainee confidence levels and self-esteem. All trainees were totally elated and full of gratitude at being given the opportunity to discover themselves in a more positive and empowering way.  One of our more mature trainees actually said ‘I wish I could have done this years ago’!

As the lead officer responsible for implementing this programme, I was totally encouraged and absolutely energised by the response from our trainees. I am also confident that the skills they have developed during this course will go on to benefit them not only in a working environment but also throughout their whole lives.

It is hard to find the words to thank everyone at Youth at Risk who made all this possible.

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It is hard to find the words to thank everyone at Youth at Risk who made all this possible. I have gained confidence, self-awareness and understanding and feel fully alive and I feel inspired by the people I have met.

We invest a significant part of our resources in our work with Youth at Risk because we know they can achieve long term change and improvement for young people.

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Youth at Risk is not one of our ‘one off’ providers, who we employ to provide sessions on motivation to our students. Instead they work on a much longer term basis with our school. Year on year.

In some cases this is simply in leading our students to a better understanding of self or their relationships with others. In some we have seen improved attendance, improved attitudes from others and in many cases motivation has increased and students results have risen. When we have a student at risk of exclusion Youth at Risk is one of the interventions we rely on – there have been occasions when we have already employed all our own strategies to prevent exclusion and it is the work that the student has done with Youth at Risk which has made the difference.

I currently recommend their work to schools who work within our teaching school alliance as a key way to support students whose attitude, habits or behaviour is causing them not to reach their goals.

I seriously cannot express how much I owe youth at risk.

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They literally did save my life and I am forever grateful for all the hard work they put into making me the person I could have easily pushed to the side forever.

I wouldn’t change back for the world. I love what I do. Who knows what sort of trouble I’d be in if it wasn’t for the staff noticing my potential. I don’t like to think of it but I could so easily be stuck in a bedsit right now hooked on something. But I’m not and that’s all that matters. It was all down to each and every member of staff never giving up on me. I do really appreciate it.

I was amazed with the subtle but in depth psychological approach to developing young people at the young people’s intensive.

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To progress in life, providing young people with the right tools is only part of the picture – training, advice and apprenticeships all help young people progress, but to truly transform a life you need to deal with deep seated issues whether personal or something which is part of  life’s experiences. Dealing with them is not just recognising them; it’s is overcoming and parking them in the past. The programme I experienced was not about wallowing in life’s deficits it was about recognising them dealing with them and then moving on. So many programmes get caught with the first stage – this programme is about progression, developing skills and realising ones potential.

I was impressed with the structure, the approach and the quality of the facilitators. The outcomes of this service have been amazing in transforming young people lives. Young people that refused to engage are now active promoters of the approach. They have become the ambassadors of the approach.

The level of maturity demonstrated by young people who experienced the course has been significant. Many are now engaging in positive training and have gained employment.

This has truly been a beneficial and worthwhile experience for staff, residents and the local community

youth at risk helped me to realise that when life knocks me down I haven’t got to go off the rails and  kick up a fuss. I have to help myself but also I have to let other people help me because you can’t always do everything yourself.

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My life before the programme was a low quality of life, I didn’t really have anything, I didn’t have anywhere to live, I had no money, I didn’t want to do anything and I didn’t know myself at all, then I found Youth At Risk.  I didn’t have a relationship with my mum or any of my family and my future didn’t look very clear. I didn’t have any drive or any motivation I didn’t want to do anything and I didn’t know myself at all.

Then I found Youth at Risk.

My life now is everything I ever wanted it to be.  I no longer feel the need to get angry, because anger doesn’t help anything; I just think things through now. Ill accept when I’m wrong now because if I don’t it will only cause more problems, ill accept it when someone let’s me down now because were human and nobody is perfect and I just feel that I am the best version of myself and I only hope to get better.

My life has completely changed and Youth at Risks biggest impact on me has been on my personal development and emotional well being.

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I fell into Youth at Risk by accident when the manager of the very first programme dropped out and I had to take over, I didn’t pay attention and just thought it was a chance to get out of London!

It turned out to be the first time in 30 years that I even considered looking at my life – 21 years on and it’s been one of those life changing journeys. Youth at Risk has made leaps and bounds in the last 21 years and I’ve been there from the beginning, what makes our volunteer community special is we as a charity have created a community of people who are willing to make sacrifices for others.

David describes the programme as being a door opener to a life in freedom.

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Fourteen years ago, David, 17-year old, was an outsider, a violent teenager involved with drugs and alcohol. One day, his father picked him up from the police station where they saw an advertisement from Youth at Risk. David decided to attend the programme. During the course, he discovered that he was a valuable person, intelligent and articulated.

After the programme he struggled with staying out of trouble and resisting hanging out with the wrong crowd. His Youth at Risk coach helped him to keep away from trouble. Thanks to the support structure, David started to realize that he could be in control of his life, acknowledge his emotions and experience a deep sense of achievement.

He succeeded to gradually give up his addiction to alcohol and to turn around his life. The tools which impacted most his behaviour have been the ability to forgive himself and others as well as the management of his anger.

Today he is a man who accepts his emotions while knowing how to deal with them. He is happy and lives with the support of his friends and family. He attributes his current, satisfying way of life to the time spent with Youth at Risk. He definitely recommends the programme, especially to young offenders and to teenagers in foster care who want to live in freedom.

Wow, wow, wow and wow again. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the programme.  It was the most emotionally and physically challenging week of my life!

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I am now experiencing the pleasure of having two calm and confident young women in my classroom.  Both are showing up with positive signs of increased self-esteem and self-respect, they are stronger and the difference in them is out there for all to see.

I know the week was all about the young people but my eyes have been opened.  For this I am eternally grateful.  There are not enough words to fully express the excellent work you do.

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