It’s been nine years since Matt first set foot inside one of the Y’s Vocational Schools. As a teenager, Matt was quick to be labelled as ‘disengaged’, but Vocational School Principle Andrew Kerr-Stevens could see that like many other young people that come through the Y, Matt was simply misunderstood. “People saw him for what we wasn’t doing, not for what he could do,” says Andrew.
Nearly a decade later, Matt is now a Youth Worker at the same school he came to as a disengaged teen. “My role is to provide support to every student. Not just academically, but socially and emotionally as well,” Matt explains. “We work not just with them, but their families as well, to give them the best opportunity to grow.”
The support and opportunities that Matt received during his time at the school were vital in helping him to set a new, positive trajectory for his life. “I was heading down a bad path, and the Y helped me to refocus,” says Matt. “Without the Y, I wouldn’t be where I am now. The staff saw the potential in me and ended up providing me with the opportunity to give back and become a support for younger people, like the support that I had.”
While admitting Matt could be a handful at times, Andrew says that the staff all came to adore Matt. “I’ve seen him grow from a young man into an adult that I now walk alongside as a colleague,” Andrew explains. “As staff we felt that we were empowering him, but realistically, he was reaching into our hearts and empowering us as well.”
As for the future, Matt hopes to continue to grow and develop his skills within the Y in a position where he can give back to the community and help young people who are facing the same struggles as he did in his younger years.
“I hope to be that support person for them, and make sure that their space is a safe place where they can learn and grow,” says Matt.