“I’m really glad I joined this group, it made me new friends and the staff are lovely” – Reece, aged 15

A local lad from Barnsley has thanked The Youth Association’s StreetSmart team for the positive impact they have made on his life.

The StreetSmart service, supported by funding from the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit, aims to provide wrap around support for young people at a street level, a setting parents, schools and most other support services struggle to reach.

Reece began his engagement with the service through their detached team in Locke Park. Although he initially displayed challenging behaviours, the Youth Association’s youth workers continued to work with Reece, engaging him in StreetSmart managing emotions sessions, sports, and other team games.

Within a few weeks, Reece was a regular face at their sessions. He began to relax and build positive relationships with youth workers. He could see his worth and his role within the group as an older young person. Reece would often bring new young people, including friends from school, to visit the group, telling them about the positive experiences he was having.

A month or so into the project, youth workers sat with Reece, asked him what he would like to get out of working with them, and offered him their observations of him within the group. Reece shared that he would like to spend time with other young people outside of school, and gain confidence in speaking to help him become a prefect and get involved in his school YouTube channel.

Reece’s first opportunity was given to him during the community football tournament, as he travelled to Doncaster Road playing fields to help set up and sign young people in. He met and talked with lots of young people.

Since then, youth workers have seen his confidence with the project soar, and he has taken part in consultations and video interviews, as well as supporting new young people in the project.

Youth workers have also built positive relationships with Reece’s mum and grandparents. There have been discussions regarding him receiving assessments within school, which are required to ensure he is able to access SEN support. Reece’s family see the positive impact that being involved in StreetSmart has had on him.

As a result of his work with the group, Reece attended the launch of the South Yorkshire Community Foundation’s Vital Signs report. Reece sat on a panel alongside his youth worker and spoke about his experience of the StreetSmart project and the benefits he has experienced.

Reece continues to attend detached sessions, and in his role as a project rep attends partnership planning meetings to contribute towards the running of an event for young people in Barnsley. Reece is developing his skills in order to continue contributing to the planning and delivery of StreetSmart, and will be joining The Youth Association ambassador programme in which young people sit alongside the Board of Trustees and make decisions for the organisation as a whole.

Graham Jones, Head of the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit, said: “It is fantastic to read Reece’s story, and to hear about the positive impact that The Youth Association’s StreetSmart programme has made on his life.

“As a Violence Reduction Unit, we are determined to support projects like this, which make a real difference in the lives of people and communities across South Yorkshire.”