August 17th, 2011

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Aspire2Be: Nurturing Black Leaders of the Future



I have been volunteering for Operation Black Vote (OBV) recently. Last week I accompanied the Founder and Director of OBV, Simon Woolley, to an event that he was speaking at. He was visiting a business coaching school in Lewisham called Aspire2Be (A2B). The school caters for approximately 30 young Black people aged 11 to 19 years.



Photographer: Rakshita Patel

It isn’t easy being a young person in Britain at the moment, especially after the riots which blighted a number of cities in England have almost demonised a generation. But it is often said that the youth of today are the future leaders and decision makers and it is vital to tap into their thoughts and communicate with them about the big issues which affect them.

Some believe that the troubles offered a way for the voiceless to be heard. But this is certainly not the only way in which young people can engage in dialogue and communicate their message and Aspire2Be is one positive example of youth leadership.

Juliet Campbell, who is a current participant on OBV and Lewisham Council’s Civic Leadership Programme, is one of the organizers of the Aspire2Be (A2B), a business coaching school for young people aged between 11-19 years. The initiative runs for five consecutive days over the summer holidays and caters for around 30 youngsters.

Based in Lewisham, the School gives young Black people the opportunity to develop a range of skills alongside their peers, outside of the school environment. A2B aims to deliver a creative and exciting week of activity, with rewarding and positive outcomes for all young people.

Each young person is called an “Associate” to establish a sense of identity and belonging to the organisation and this is amplified by their dress in business attire. The Associates are split into four teams and each team has a Lead Associate, a University student on their summer holiday, which enables the University students to also develop their leadership skills.

A2B takes the opportunity to unearth and nurture talent by engaging young people in positive activities. The School inspires young people to realise their full potential, guiding them to remove the barriers that stop them achieving and helping them to the realization that they can be anything they A2B.

Lydia Lewinson, who is the programme organiser at A2B, said,
“Our young people are our future and we need to take the time to develop them and invest in them. It takes a community to raise a child – I want to an active part of that community. I want to empower young people to be good and responsible citizens. If we don’t do that, who will?”

One of the programme participants said,
“The School helps me to be the best that I can be. It gives me hope for a better future and means I will feel more confident when I start work.”

A2B’s ultimate aim and ambition is to encourage and empower their Associates to have self respect, self worth and integrity as role models and good citizens within their community and to equip them for a successful career and the world of work.

At a time when young people are being demonised I thought it was really important to get a positive story about young people out there.

copyright © Rakshita Patel 2011