13 April 2022
Working on HeadStart Action has reminded me of what it’s like being a young Londoner in this day and age; we are spread around different boroughs, countless neighbourhoods and colourful communities, with a busy traffic of challenges and opportunities, with little control over where our feet land. When reading through a library of case studies brought to us by different grassroots youth and community organisations, I asked myself the question that youth workers asked young people on the project: “In one word how would you describe your HeadStart Action Experience?”. My answer would be ‘Change’.
I have chosen ‘Change’ because change describes the shift that the global pandemic brought upon us, and the many disruptions that came along with it, but it also conveys a metamorphosis of resilience that HeadStart Action encouraged through these times. Change means growth, which was a common factor in every case study that I read. I have witnessed how young people’s individual stories became tangible, overcame stereotypes, labels and statistics. I have read about them channelling their fears and insecurities to formulate questions, and express opinions; through mentoring sessions, team-work and employability workshops. I have seen them build bridges of trust and communication with their mentors and friends, even if their circumstances weren’t favourable, even if their shells were holding them tightly within their comfort zones – they broke out of them.
“The one to ones are good. A way to get stuff off my mind off my chest, actually talk to someone about what is going on in my personal life. Kind of a way of escaping my reality. It is a breather, a step back, like when you are running, you take a breather; that’s what this”
What it means
HeadStart Action, encompassed a journey of youth clubs, youth workers and young people; not as individual positions within the greater scheme of youth work, but as a network that were given a platform to holistically and practically enact social action. HeadStart Action is evidently designed to tackle instabilities, challenges and disruptions that young people are confined within. The iron structures of school, family, society, education, employment; each of these followed by its own barriers, prejudices and instances of misinformation, feeling too small to make a big change, unfortunate situations and difficult circumstances felt lighter, and manageable with the fluidity that HeadStart Action brought among young people. Through HeadStart Action, young people not only received information, practice and gained a balanced outcome of soft and hard skills, but demystified some of the big stigmas towards employment, careers and education. Young people were also given the opportunity to create their own projects, which to them was:
“A way to get justice for people like me. Something bigger than myself, start small and then make it bigger. “
“I liked the fact that these quite serious and hard topics were delivered in a fun and interactive way through games and fun learning activities, this made me understand and want to listen to what was being said.”
In conclusion, I believe that HeadStart Action has delivered important change among young people, individually and collectively. Young people have learnt that no success is unachievable, that the world; especially London, is full of opportunities, which sometimes do not land at your feet, but through HeadStart Action they have been given the skills to reach for them. Most importantly, young people have been taught to care, to listen, to communicate, to be better Londoners, in a time when London needs them the most.