Ricky from The Garage Youth Centre

by maxineg on Mon, 2011-03-14 16:14
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Ricky’s journey – from a centre member to a centre leader.  Developing a culture of young people becoming leaders.

What was the background that led to the young person getting involved?

The Garage youth centre opened in 2002. It is a volunteer youth sector project funded by our local parish council. Our aim is to provide a safe place for young people to socialise and have fun. We also provide structured opportunities to develop skills and abilities to enhance young people’s lives and the lives of other in our community

Ricky joined the centre when it opened at just 12 years old. He used the facility as intended to meet his friends and actively took part in the majority of our activities, which concentrate on developing personal and social skills. He has always regularly attended our sessions.

What did the young person do?

Ricky was a lively teenager and did not do well at school or at College. He tried a couple of jobs but found it difficult to commit to them. He has had his difficulties as a member and barred at one point for 6 weeks. This he remembers well, but he has always had an aptitude to learn from his mistakes, and a youth centre is a safe place to make them.

During his time as a member, he continually recognised, achieved and developed valuable life skills through the experiences available to him and transferred these skills continually to make a significant contribution as an active member of the club.

The more involved he became with the centre, the more I recognised his potential. Ricky successfully used his experiences and skills to education and steer his peers to maintain their boundaries during their time at the club.
This supportive nature and attitude towards the team encouraged his peers to follow his lead and this made the club atmosphere very positive for all involved. It soon became obvious to me that younger members looked up to him. He was actively setting the precedence of behaviour and attitude with in the centre and had become an effective positive role model that we could depend on.

Who or what helped you the young person to succeed?

Ricky had already earned his own independent and positive leadership position at the centre. In 2009, aged 17, I offered him the opportunity to fine-tune his skills by taking part in a ‘Young Leaders’ course. This ran in house with staff from ‘Hampshire Youth Clubs & Isle of Wight’. It was a new venture for the club at the time and Ricky agreed to pilot the scheme with three friends. The training increased his confidence and he started to take on a higher level of leadership and management. He proved to be a valuable asset to the day to day running of the club and became one of our first active young leaders.

 In 2010, aged 18, I offered Ricky the opportunity to join the youth work team as an official volunteer.  I was impressed with his reasons for taking the position, as he recognised the importance the club had played in his personal and social development and was keen to support other young people to achieve his level of well being.

In August 2010.  One of our long term youth workers left the centre to pursue their career in another field. This gave me the opportunity and the great pleasure of offering Ricky paid employment in August 2010.

Ricky has truly earned his position. He has shown such courage in his transition from member to worker and such a high level of commitment and initiative. He is a true example of how positive youth clubs can be for young people during their formative years.

Nothing has given me greater pleasure during my career than to hand over a set of keys for the building to a former member to take charge of.

What were the challenges?

I had not taken on a ‘member’ as a volunteer before so it was another new venture for me too. It was the natural progression for Ricky’s involvement and development. We took part in many discussions before he took the official position, which concentrated on the role of his peers in supporting him and the need for Ricky to feel confident in his change of roles.

His success relied heavily on the support of his friendship group. I also held discussions with them to reduce the possible sabotage of his new responsibilities.
It was a period of time when support had to be demonstrated both to Ricky and his peers to enable the transition to work effectively.

At the time, many of the older members in his peer group where making their own transitions to college or employment and their time at the centre was greatly reduced. This had all been taken into consideration for the timing of his transition from member to ‘volunteer support worker’.

What’s changed or is better as a result?

For me, it is the inspiration and opportunities that Ricky’s journey has created for other members to follow in his footsteps.

Ricky can relate and understand our members needs first hand and has become a valuable asset in planning our programme as he recalls his own inspiration and achievement from past activities and events. He is a great resource for ‘successful ideas’ and our programme has improved for our members as a result.  

For Ricky, he has paid employment in a familiar setting where he has the confidence and self esteem to challenge himself and continue to develop his skills,
And improve his life chances and the life chances of others.

How do you know?

Many of our members come from disadvantaged backgrounds and share a similar path to the one that Ricky had of unsuccessful academic careers. From the experience and confidence I have gained as a youth leader through Ricky’s journey, we can now offer more opportunities as a ‘centre’ to our members. We have that all important visual and verbal ‘proof’ for inspiration to our young people, that we can all achieve.

We now have a successful in house Young Leaders programme with a waiting list. We have also developed a successful ‘in house’ training programme for new volunteers (practiced on Ricky!) with further opportunities to volunteer in other programmes with in our community for example, Hampshire Wildlife Trust’s Bush craft project which maintains a local wildlife reserve.

We also provide in house awards known as ‘member of the moment’ Awards that recognise young people’s commitment to the centre which are valued by the young people that achieve them.

Due to our staffing dynamics, without this young man, his young colleague that we have since employed, who has successfully followed his path and a number of volunteers inspired by his achievements, we could not offer the programme and flexibility that we do now which proves to be of significant benefit to our local young people and the community.

For our centre, Ricky is a perfect example of how youth clubs can significantly benefit the lives of young people. He openly admits, that without the opportunities he experienced as a member, he would not know what he would be doing now.

What happens next?

Ricky is now taking part in the first stages of his universal youth work training programme. He volunteered to start this training at his own discretion and his commitment and leadership qualities are flourishing and valued by both the team and the young people he mentors.

If the support is maintained with in an environment that he is confident with; I can see no reason why he cannot continue to achieve his maximum potential.

It has always been an ambition of mine that the club would be fully managed by the young people that attend it. With a strong young leader programme up and running and our young support worker as inspiration- this ideal is becoming a reality and ensures the work of our centre for future generations to achieve.

I am very proud of Ricky’s achievements and the learning we have discovered together that has enabled us as a team to extend the opportunities we can provide to the young people in our community.


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