“It’s so rewarding when I come to the end of a journey with a young person. It could be that they are going into employment or could be that they are moving onto further training; just seeing them move to a place where they are in a better position than when they started is awesome.” Beth is a Youth Development Coach at Visionwest. When she talks about her life and working with young people, you can’t help but be inspired.
I left school at 17 and went straight into youth work. It seems strange to have done that when I was only a youth myself but it was what I wanted to do. I’d been a part of a youth organisation where I’d made some cool friends and had some role models who really spoke into my life. That made me want to give back to other young people so they could experience what I had.
I think about what young people were facing while I was at school. A lot of youth suicides, gang fights, fighting in general, all sorts of issues at home… it felt like it was my mission to step into a role where I could be a game-changer for young people like these.
In her role as a Youth Development Coach, every day is different for Beth. While she admits there is a surprising amount of administration, she also visits the young people at home or at school. She checks to ensure they are doing okay and have the food and other necessities they need. She makes certain they are receiving benefits they are eligible for, such as young parent payments for young mums.
Most of all, she talks and walks alongside the young people. She listens to their hope and dreams, and about the things they’d like to achieve in their lives.
A lot of my role is to help young people into a job they can really excel at or to arrange the training they need to get that job.
A lot of young people come from a vacuum. They come from a place where they do very little. They have left school but have no idea what to do with their lives. Most of them want a job and want to feel successful at something but need help discovering what their something is. My role is to walk with them along that journey of discovery.
Beth tells the story of Amy*, a young woman with whom she journeyed. “Amy was one of my students when I first started at Visionwest. She had a vision to do something worthwhile with her life but wasn’t sure what. She also had two children which made studying a struggle – she did it though.
She just completed Level 6 of a qualification in childhood education. It’s amazing that she could achieve that level of education while looking after two children of her own. It shows what young people can achieve if they receive encouragement and have someone pointing them in the right direction.
One of the traits that encouragement can inject into a young person’s life is self-confidence. For Beth, this comes back to not allowing anyone to put a young person into a box but instead encouraging them to grow into the person they were born to be. “As young people grow up, many are subjected to constant criticism that tells them, ‘You are this,’ or, ‘you can’t do that.’ It can wear them down to the point where, when they come to us, they need someone to lift them up.
I like to be that person; the person who encourages and reminds each young person that they can be and do something special. Being a part of the programmes at Visionwest means that every day they hopefully hear someone tell them they are awesome.
Carla* is another young mum that Beth worked with and just recently moved on from Visionwest. Carla was very shy when she started the Visionwest training programme, but she and Beth became close.
At one point, recognising that Carla had a lot going on in her life, Beth suggested some counselling might be worthwhile. Carla wasn’t too sure at first. She worried about what she might have to divulge about herself and what it might be like to revisit some of the trauma in her life. In the end, however, she agreed to counselling and went to the Visionwest Wellbeing Centre.
Carla loved the support she received there. It was the first time in her life that she had focussed positively on her own needs and her own wellbeing. She joined a gym and began meeting more people. Her shyness turned to a quiet self-confidence that transformed her life.
Carla now has a job and is doing well. She and Beth still keep in touch and Beth says how special it is to be remembered positively by Carla.
To work as a youth development coach and be able to create or lead change, is a beautiful thing,” says Beth. They say it takes a village to raise a child or a young person and to be an integral part of a young person’s village is a very real privilege. Sure, there are days when the work is really hard, but the wins outweigh all that and, when it comes down to it, to journey with a young person and see them graduate out of Visionwest, and to know they are going to go out to do something amazing, that is an indescribable feeling.
*Not their real names.
Click here to find out more about Visionwest Youth Solutions and the work of our youth development coaches.