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Prevista Youth Congress Residential Raising the Bar

 

Youth Congress Residential

Prevista has been delivering government funded contracts that help individuals and communities fulfil their potential through education and training for over 20 years. We have run a number of highly successful programmes across a range of Funding streams which aim to support the

most vulnerable young Londoners back into education, employment and training. Youth at Risk have been delivering training and coaching programmes for young people for over 25 years, helping them come to terms with their past and to recognise they have a future beyond their present expectations. Their training and coaching seeks to challenge and empower young people to make positive changes in their lives.

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Prevista and Youth at Risk decided to utilise their experience, expertise and skills to form a strategic partnership to create an innovative Social Impact Bond legacy programme for 25 young Londoners (aged 16-18) who were experiencing disadvantage, isolation and disconnection to fulfil their potential via an initiative called the Youth Congress community transformation programme. Prevista and Youth at Risk worked together to create a platform for young people to achieve transformation within their own lives, and thus inspire their peers and community. Funded from Prevista’s own resources, through a series of 1:1 support, group workshops and a six day residential event in Yorkshire, the Youth Congress was designed for young people who were interested in recognising their personal potential by working on goals as well as being a voice for other young people. It would help to build their confidence, develop their skills and enhance their employment and education prospects.

Their choice to come onto this journey was a bold one, offering them an opportunity to work on developing themselves and the challenges that they have faced. These varied from getting back into education, restoring a family relationship, getting out of an abusive relationship or a gang, or embarking on independent living. Committing themselves to take a “stand” on realising more of what they want in their lives, not fall into a victim mentality, but to take responsibility for their lives.

The first phase of the programme involved inviting young people to an orientation exercise where they would find out more about the programme and decide whether or not they would like to participate. They identified personal goals that they wanted to work on for nine months including; finding a job, improving relationships with parents, building self-confidence, dealing with anger and other emotions.

Delivery organisation coaches supported the young people to complete their application process as well as go through the interview process before Youth at Risk and Prevista chose which individuals would join the Residential.

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The young people took the confidence, skills and commitment from completing these tasks into the Residential and for many of them this was their first trip away from home and London. The training at the Residential provided the opportunity for the young people to investigate belief systems that formed barriers to making a genuine difference to their lives and gain insights and motivation to resolve what may seem to be intractable issues. As expected, the Residential was a roller coaster of emotions for many of the young people who were willing to engage in challenging conversations, designed to have them take a ‘no kidding’ look at themselves. All participants were brave and courageous in opening up about the things that had happened to them, about mistakes they had made and how they wanted to move forward.

The starting point for the programme was with the being: who do I want to be at work and what do I need to make that happen? Training was provided in how to see choices where there appear to be none and concurrent themes included: Skills in holding others accountable and dealing powerfully with mistakes; Confidence to communicate with honesty and integrity; Increased understanding of self-defeating patterns of behavior and how to interrupt them. Through a series of conversations about their lives, the young people were helped to helping work through past issues and challenge and confront their beliefs about themselves. The young people took a rigorous look at the choices they’ve made and the consequences of those choices, in a highly supported environment.

One of the participants commented: ‘We grew to understand that whilst we could not change our past, our past does not predict our future. It is we who can choose our own future’.

All of these themes were discussed in a learning environment in which support is given and received. The young people were supported by a network of volunteers including Prevista and their Supply Chain Partners staff, and over the course of six days the young people were taken through a series of challenges and tasks. As the days progressed they began to share more of themselves and work with the volunteers who were there to support them. On day 5 of 6 the young people were matched with their ‘Committed Partner’, a life coach, who will continue to provide support and work with them for the next 9 months.

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Day 6 flew by and everyone headed back to London for the ‘Welcome Home’ event with family, friends, professionals and supporters. Volunteers shared their experiences of the residential and the impact of working with this group of young people who in turn stepped up to accept certificates and share their accomplishments – a few young people apologised to parents for past mistakes. Some told their mum and dad how much they appreciated their support and others acknowledged different key adults in their lives. The room was often in tears, moved by how far the young people had come in just 6 days and rooting for their continued success. It was clear to everyone present that the training had a significant impact on young people’s critical thinking which had encouraged changes in their behaviour. This was particularly the case for those that reported the most extreme negative behaviour and is testament to the power of the training at the Residential in developing young people’s resilience. Some young people, therefore, did experience a ‘transformation’ and their risk of experiencing negative outcomes significantly reduced.

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THE FUTURE: Now the work really begins, back home where maybe the only thing that has changed is the young person themselves. They now have a Committed Partner and the wider Youth Congress community who are ready and willing to support them towards their goals. To ensure the young people continue to grow from the commitments they made to themselves and to each other on the Residential, all of them will have a 9 month structured support service which will see them meet every month as a group, in 1 to 1s with their life coaches, and be given opportunities to earn themselves leadership roles via peer to peer mentoring roles and articulate their progress and achievements to other young people, key stakeholders and Funders.

They will are also be given coaching and mentoring support to develop their skills, knowledge and experience via accessing Prevista’s varied funding streams in fields such as creative media, social media, video production, sound production and event management. Additional intended outcomes include using their new found skills and confidence to access Apprenticeships and Traineeships; gain accredited qualifications and work experience; developing projects with budgets and working in groups to create proposals which will help to shape services in their community.

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Neil Wragg, CEO of Youth at risk commented: ‘The Residential programme with Prevista was a fantastic success for all involved, particularly for the young people. It is a testament to the dedication of the volunteer staff and the young people themselves that we were able to witness the progress made by so many on the Residential in a short space of time – our 9 month structured support service will ensure that the progress made is maintained and that the young people involved will continue on their path to transformation. We intend to learn lessons from this via feedback from volunteers and young people to ensure our proposed Residential in 2018 is just as successful’.

James Clements Smith, Managing Director of Prevista commented: ‘Prevista have been delighted by outcomes of our strategic relationship with Youth at Risk and the results of the Residential.  We are determined, as one of the region’s leading Providers in supporting the most vulnerable Londoners back into education, employment and training, to continue to invest in innovative programmes such as the Residential to ensure we can apply the most effective, responsive provision to young people who have increasingly challenging needs’.

 

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The Youth Congress: Jess’ experience
 The Youth Congress programme would not have been possible without the tremendous amount of support and commitment our residential team of volunteers have given. They gave up their time to attend some workshops as well as 9 days to work on-site in Yorkshire to ensure the young people had the best possible experience. One of our residential volunteers, Jess, got in touch to tell us about her experience:When I signed up to volunteer for the Youth Congress residential, I painted the ideal picture of what it would be like and found myself agreeing to ‘fully commit’ to a programme I had very little understanding of. The training sessions were intense, I feel it was about looking at yourself as an individual, allowing you to think, ask questions and challenge, it also encouraged opening up in order to let more in. During the process of opening up and finding out about the living arrangements on [the] residential, not having phones or access to the outside world other than on your break and never when the young people were around, I felt myself becoming vulnerable, which began to deter me from my commitment.After speaking with [a] few other volunteers and Youth at Risk staff, I managed to put my fears and insecurities to [one] side and attend the trip.  Day two of when the young people arrived, I was ready to go home!  The long hours and the amount of work that [was] needed to be done as well as being a performance coach was just too much, you were everywhere where the young people were at all times. Little did I know that this was a blessing in disguise. By being around the young people 24/7 [it] allowed me to build relationships on many different levels, it gave me the opportunity to learn more about them and hear their story of what made them who they were. Words cannot describe how incredible the journey was, seeing them grow and develop a sense of ownership, responsibility, looking at the possibility and knowing they have a choice in how they deal with different obstacles in life.

After the welcome home ceremony I found myself wanting to do more, I was ready to do it all over again and not change a thing! The amount of fulfilment and happiness I had has lasted even up until now, it made me look at young people in a different light and has motivated me into exploring other career options that will allow me to do more work like I did on the residential. Thank you Youth at Risk for allowing me to have this opportunity, it was totally life changing!

 

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