08 November 2022
Meet Jordan: a member of London Youth’s Youth Board who has thrown himself into youth work and the opportunities it brings. From a teenager who felt disengaged at school, navigating a late Autism diagnosis, to a thriving young man who fundraises for charity and advocates for young people to get fit.
Tell us about your background. What barriers do you feel you had to overcome?
I grew up in Peckham, South East London. Black British. I went to a public school. I remember being diagnosed with autism. It limited the way I expressed myself with people. I was diagnosed late, which meant that I didn’t get the right support from education, so already my confidence in my learning was lessened.
My teacher had an assembly which meant that my diagnosis was shared with the rest of my year group against my will. This meant that people treated my differently, and I didn’t like that. Moving from primary and moving forward through secondary, I kept that aspect hidden from most people in my life that I was on the spectrum. Overcoming this helped me to improve my wellbeing. Being able to express myself is healthy.
Tell us about your involvement in London Youth as a young person. Was there a particular moment that now feels like a turning point for you? How did they support you to get to where you are today?
In October 2021, I applied to join the youth board. My first sessions were coming to the youth board meetings and trying to engage with these unique young people was interesting.
A moment that change a lot for me was being offered a place in a 10k race, 2 months before the event. I said yes, I would run that! I never thought of myself as athletic, but I did see myself as taking on challenges and overcoming them. I wanted to see if I could actually run a 10k in less than 2 months of training- and I did it! In about an hour and 3 minutes.
Through the experiences we did [in the youth board], it built my confidence back up. I felt that I had a voice that was worth giving power to and expressing.
We’ll never stop saying that young people need youth work. Do you agree, and why is it so important?
I never felt like I did a lot of learning in the classroom. I got the basics, but I found a lot more in things outside of education: the things I chose to do. I’m happy that the youth workers around me and programmes I was doing were able to shape and keep me on a path which gave me progression.
Over a third of London’s youth clubs have shut in the last decade. What message do you have for people in power who might be able to prevent this from getting worse?
If you don’t want to fix the education system, maybe you should try to open a new youth clubs to give young people something to do when education isn’t so fun.
What specific advice would you give to your younger self?
I feel like I get a lot more value from my younger self than my older present self. I do the same things I did when I was younger, but everything was simple. There’s like a thousand things I’m doing now but only like 5-10 things I was doing when I was younger. I like keeping things simple, so I would say- “You’re doing the right thing just there, just keep doing that!”
What do you most admire in the young people of today, and what the future could look like thanks to them?
I see a future where young people who have grown up are okay with difference, it’s inclusive. There are walls but at the same time there are doors. So there are more ways to communicate. People are a lot more understanding, they try to be understanding and we try and move forwards.