Why I support young people

WHY dedicate a whole newspaper to celebrating young people? As many people across Suffolk agree we should cast away the image of hoodies and hooligans, features editor TRACEY SPARLING asks: why do you support the future generation?Andy Wood, coach at Ipswich Gymnastic CentreWhen faced with intimidating crowds of hoodie-wearing teenagers, drinking and swearing outside the centre of an evening, Andy invited them in.

By Tracey Sparling

WHY dedicate a whole newspaper to celebrating young people? As many people across Suffolk agree we should cast away the image of hoodies and hooligans, features editor TRACEY SPARLING asks: why do you support the future generation?

Andy Wood, coach at Ipswich Gymnastic Centre

When faced with intimidating crowds of hoodie-wearing teenagers, drinking and swearing outside the centre of an evening, Andy invited them in.

He said: “Every Friday night since 2003 we have invited the 11-15 year olds to a youth night and now 120 to 150 turn up every Friday. Most of them could be labelled 'hoodies' by people, they don't like PE school - and if you asked them, half wouldn't know what they wanted to do.

“Friday nights give them something to do and get them off the streets, doing something proactive and positive. Ten staff help them use the equipment, but they are not told what to do. They playfight and muck around and if what they're doing is dangerous they are told to stop. They almost own it and it's proved to be a huge success. If you give young people respect you open a dialogue and you get respect back from them.”

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Inga Lockington, mayor of Ipswich

"I have had the good fortune this year to meet many young people who are excellent ambassadors for the town, and am looking forward to meeting even more during my mayoral year. “Some are engaged in charity and voluntary work, others are representing their schools and clubs at various sports, more are excelling academically. It is really quite wrong to stereotype people. Our community is made up of people of all ages."

Hazel Mackintosh, interim head of Youth and Connexions service in Ipswich

"Having worked with young people for 25 years, I never cease to be impressed at their creativity, perseverance (sometimes against huge odds) and zest for life. As adults we have a responsibility to support them to achieve their potential; our future depends on it."

Simon Blowers, managing director of Baiss & Co, Ipswich

Simon employs many young people at his Ipswich salons.

He said: “We need to look after young people because if we keep putting them down the whole time they are never going to be able to take control on their own lives.

“We need to give them a chance, and give them respect at the same time. The younger generation should not be under-estimated because it's incredible what they can achieve.”

Steve Wooldridge, of ABC Services which trains staff and students to improve the wellbeing of young people in schools

“We have now trained young people to be peer mentors to other students in over 50 schools in Suffolk and Norfolk .These mentors give up their own time to help and support other young people with issues that range from bullying to additional needs or just being there to listen. I never cease to be amazed by their energy, willingness to help and by their emotional maturity.

“The overwhelming majority of whom were decent, motivated, forward thinking youngsters often with a great sense of humour…Yes I could focus on those who were not like this but that would be wrong; they were in the minority.

“I believe we should celebrate much more what these young people do instead of whinging about them and feeding of mistaken preconceived ideas and continue to show them the respect they deserve.”

Dr Bud Simpkin, chief executive of Young Suffolk - established in 1974 as the only county-wide organisation for the voluntary children and young people's sector

“I think it is important to support the younger generation because the world today is a far tougher and more confusing place for young people to grow up in than it has ever been before.

“Although it is excellent that young people have more freedom to make more choices they get less opportunity to practice their decision-making skills than any previous generation. Despite all the temptations to make wrong choices the vast majority of young people make excellent choices and for that we should congratulate and praise them and for the few who slip off the track we should be ready to guide them to a happier place.

Suffolk County councillor Patricia O'Brien who has responsibility for children and young people "Even though I have been involved with helping young people to develop for some years, I am still astonished almost every day when I visit schools to learn what young people can do. I see great examples of pupils who are achieving brilliant academic success. I meet children who are creating wonderful works of art, including drama and multimedia work. I am privileged to watch some sporting performances that might well lead some of our young people to the Olympics in 2012.

“But what impresses me most, at every school I go to, and in every classroom and playground, is the spirit of our local young people. Our children and young people now are sociable, cooperative, kind and helpful and usually warm and welcoming. They are adventurous, polite, ambitious and full of interest in the world and they have a determination to act to improve themselves and their neighbourhood.

“I have an enormous faith in our future, as it is in the hands of these amazing young people.”

Tom Griffiths, founder of Ipswich-based www.gapyear.com

“Too often we say young people don't do anything, and it's too easy to rubbish them. What we see is so much potential there, young people are wager to do things but so often they get stopped. We should harness their enterprising spirit, to help them on the path to what they want to do.

“50per cent of 16-18 year olds we surveyed didn't know what they wanted to do yet, and many get pushed into job choices but if we support them they will achieve more in life. The biggest proportion of people taking a career change - because they made the wrong decisions at 18 - are aged 25-35 and I think we should learn from that.”

Laura Bennett, communications and community assistant for the East of England Co-operative Society

“We employ hundreds of young people at our stores and branches across the region who do a fantastic job.

“We encourage students and community partners to work together to be 'socially enterprising' in their localities; we applaud the commitment, passion and enthusiasm of the hundreds of young people the Society comes into contact with.”

She added: “Who could forget the dedication and talent of the Co-op Juniors, who are already working hard on this year's Christmas Spectacular?”

The Co-Op runs a Changemakers Project where three high schools work with their communities to develop an enterprising attitude, a Young Co-operative Entrepreneurs Course asking disengaged, disruptive and under-achieving young people to use their entrepreneurial talents for the benefit of others, and an 'On the CASE' project where students and community partners set up mini Co-op businesses.


What do you think of the younger generation?

Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.