This was my second Street League graduation in North East London… and the second time I was in awe. Street League, a Trust charity partner, uses the power of football to get disadvantaged youth into work, education or training. Graduations are held after seven weeks of intensive job training, football practice and tournaments.
They were an entirely new set of graduates coming from tumultuous backgrounds like the last; but with their own very individual stories.
Having the honour of being able to attend this ceremony again highlighted just what great work Street League is doing here. Advisor Rachel Zipfel and Coach Terry Pampling have clearly cultivated a unique environment that provides the confidence for disadvantaged young people to pursue things they never thought possible.
All of the graduates had stories in their speeches of how Street League pulled them out of a downward cycle and up onto a more productive path:
Nicky said that this time last year he was in prison. He is now working at being a great dad to his son and towards future employment.
Hakeem was heading towards a life of crime. He realised he had to make a choice if he wanted to avoid prison. Street League steered him towards a rewarding career.
Ashley had a particularly touching story being the only female in a group of 14 males. Ashley thanked everyone for never giving up on her, for helping her boost her low self esteem, building her confidence to new highs, and for being there when she needed them the most.
Jamie has always wanted to be a coach, but life lead him to construction work during the day and night shifts at London Underground. He wasn’t heading in the right direction and found Street League through a job centre. Jamie knows getting a coaching job is still awhile away, but he has the determination to make it work.
Javad didn’t know it was possible to achieve so much in such a short time.
Another common theme in the graduation speeches was the overwhelming support felt by all from their teammates and Street League staff.
Following the speeches, Rachel commended everyone for recognising the benefits of starting something and seeing it through. The ‘yes’ attitude the graduates demonstrated made their jobs worthwhile, she said.
All graduates were reminded that the hard work starts now–how they use what they learned at Street League will determine their future. Everyone was presented with a USB stick containing their new CVs. They were told that Street League is always there for them. With support like this from Street League and their teammates, I am more than confident in the futures of these young people.
By Amber Fairrie of Creatives Against Poverty