More on Teenagers

11 years ago, when Horace was the age Mavis now is, Whizz and I moved to this village of Pebbleditch we now call home.

Mavis knew nobody so I decided, as newly appointed editor of the Pebbleditch Parish Post, to appeal in the magazine for volunteers to start a youth club. Four people eventually turned up and we, in a very inexperienced way, started, what turned out to be a demanding project, to try and appeal to the teenagers of Pebbleditch and distract some of them from getting into trouble. Horace would have nothing to do with this and remained horizontal in her bedroom.

With the help of youth services I began to get to know the young people and to see that the ones who were rebellious and troublesome were actually nice kids with lots of potential but it was very difficult for me, a spoiled, middle class, middle aged woman to get through to them. I wanted to tell them how many options they had but I always managed to lecture them and eventually I decided I was out of my depth. I never lost that liking of teenagers and a powerful feeling of hopelessness that I was not equipped to do more.

I redirected my energies and with another group lobbied the powers that be to set aside local money for facilities. We looked into skate parks and youth shelters and so on and actually, the Parish Council was persuaded and has held over quite a large sum of money each year to provide these things for the young people (a whole new set by now), once the large amount of building development has been completed in our village.

The young people of pebbleditch have a new, younger parish council and members who speak up for them, and I think also that the demographic of the village has changed with many more houses being built.

So, now Mavis is at ‘that age’. Of course she has lived here most of her life so doesn’t feel isolated.

Over the horizon galloped Youth For Christ, a most wonderful organisation offering to set up Youth Cafes. The parish councillors were in the right frame of mind to provide the funding, and this week Whizz and I, and a very respectable number of other volunteers went along to the first Youth Cafe run by a remarkable and impressive group of young adults.

I’m getting to the point here. One of the young adults, call him Tom, had been attending a youth cafe run by the group since he was 11. He was an absolute tearaway when young and a fantastic and inspiring person now. To see him at the cafe, aiming straight for the troublemakers and building relationships with them gave me the hope that I too could make a difference. Tom was the example I needed, to help with what I have always felt was possible, and I don’t have the words adequate enough to explain how moving I have found this.

I work in a primary school, with the less able members of the class and I worry that these little dots are in danger of becoming the troublemakers of the future. The National Curriculum (in my opinion) sets them up to fail all the time, erroding their self esteem and aiming them straight for the edges of society. Not all of them will end in trouble but I feel in my bones that I will see some of them tearing around at the youth cafe in a few years time, being ‘related to’ by Tom (and I hope by me too).

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