These Young People Deserve a Chance

8th November 2016

One person who can vouch for the impact of the programme is 19-year-old Leon Brown from Maesglas, Newport.

When he's not on the pitch or training in the gym, the current Wales under 20's, Dragons Academy and Cross Keys rugby player volunteers his spare time as a Peer Mentor with Positive Futures.

Leon predominantly works with young people who have disengaged from their school environment and have been specifically referred to the project as a result of their behavioural issues.

Of the 7,285 individuals throughout Gwent that engaged with the Positive Futures programme last year, 345 were specific one to one referrals and 651 were group referrals of young people who are on the verge of exclusion from school or at risk of crime and ASB.

Those referred to Positive Futures specifically take part in an alternative curriculum which helps develop their personal and social attributes and levels of achievement.

Up and coming tight head prop Leon Brown is being tipped for a bright future in the professional game and the 6ft 2in and 18 stone athlete is now regarded as a role model by many of the young referrals to Positive Futures.

"I chose not to go to University or access further education but I wanted to do something else apart from playing rugby in my spare time," said Leon.

"I needed something else to keep me occupied and Positive Futures seemed like the perfect alternative for me. I'm from Maesglas in Newport so I see kids where I live hanging round on the streets doing nothing and getting into trouble. They don't really have any direction in their lives. Most of the children and young people I work with at Positive Futures have behavioural problems and they don't really engage in a traditional school environment. However, all of the young people we work with deserve a chance and this programme provides them with that opportunity.

Their days with us are structured slightly differently to a traditional school day. They do a range of courses from the ASDAN curriculum in the morning and then they take part in a range of sports and physical activities in the afternoon. My role involves, coaching, supporting and mentoring them throughout the day and I try to develop a positive connection with them. I listen to what they have to say and I see how they react to different scenarios and situations.

Once you get to know them, you soon find out what they enjoy and you develop that aspect with them. As well as coaching them in sport, I try to make a difference by providing them with advice or a different outlook on things. It's amazing sometimes to see how they grow in confidence and then you go home with a real sense of achievement and a feeling that you've made a positive difference. I'm really enjoying the volunteering and if it doesn't work out in rugby, I would definitely be interested in working with young people like this who desperately need our support."

Leon has no doubt about the positive impact of the programme: "Positive Futures most definitely works and you can see a real difference after a few weeks in the young people we work with," says Leon.

"Their attitudes change and they come on in leaps and bounds. Their general behaviour and the way they interact with people also improve. They concentrate more and they realise that if they do their work in the morning on the course, then the afternoon session is all about sport and letting off steam. It teaches young people valuable life lessons and discipline."

Leon is also adamant that the programme helps reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in the community.

"It's an alternative for them being kicked out of school and hanging around on the streets doing nothing," he says.

"We try to put them on the straight and narrow and show them that there are opportunities out there and that there's more to life than messing about and causing trouble."