Youth coaches in Seacroft reveal why they are hoping to put the dealing and stealing skills of young people to good use
Drug dealing, stealing cars and graffiting are all traits that can be nurtured into productive skills and talents say two youth workers set to transform opportunities for young people in Seacroft.
Dan Hurle and Taylor Racz, at the ages of 21 and 19, are the youngest people that have ever been employed to do community work in the area - and they are here to do it differently.
There will be no time-table of activities they devised, there will be no condescending career advice. In fact, their career advice is the last thing you would expect to hear.
Mr Hurle said: “We are not here to say ‘do this’. We are here to say ‘you could try this’. A kid that sells drugs might be good at business, a kid that steals cars can fix a car, kids that do graffiti know about art, so let’s provide that opportunity and give them a chance where they can use that skill and hopefully lead to a job.”
There is no dressing up, however, that a life of crime is a career choice in Seacroft - but the duo say that is largely because of a lack of choices.
In addition, over recent years youth service funding has been cut - leaving a bigger void of opportunity for young people growing up on one of the biggest council estates in the country and an area with higher than average levels of poverty and inequality.
Both Mr Hurle and Miss Racz are aware of what it is like to be a child and a teenager growing up in Seacroft - they have lived the anti-social behaviour, the crime and what it feels like to think there are no opportunities or alternatives here.
He said: “We see every day what they are doing and it is the same things we were doing when we were their age. There are influences in certain areas you don’t need in Seacroft and that comes from not having opportunities.”
Miss Racz added: “You hear a lot of people saying ‘why should I get a job when I can earn money selling weed?’ Just because you are from Seacroft and that is what your friends do - you don’t have to, there are other outcomes. Then there are some kids dealing to help their parents with income.
“We don’t judge, we have been there, done it and grown up in it.”
Mr Hurle runs an under 13s football team, has a radio show on Chapel FM talking about grassroots sports and how young people can get involved, and, will be running a sports leadership course for teenagers with the aim of giving them the skills and confidence to, in turn, also be role models and leaders to the youth of Seacroft.
Miss Racz helps her father coach Seacroft Sharks, runs arts and crafts sessions, is involved with Kentmere Youth Theatre and is starting a SIBs group to provide activities and support for siblings of children who have disabilities and learning difficulties.
Another project of the LS14 Trust is turning a disused former pub and council building into a youth centre. There is a fundraising campaign and they are calling on young people and their skills, particularly the graffiti artists, to get involved and decide what activities go on in the centre.
Mr Hurle explained: “Why should we tell them what to do? But, let’s give them a voice and confidence to lead their own community. This centre is the biggest project we are working on and is the community saying ‘we are investing in these kids’. Having ownership will make a difference.
“There is always a conflict between residents and young people and you hear a lot ‘anti-social behaviour and young people’. We have it, but where is there to go?”
The passion from both of them about harnessing community and creating opportunities is clear - and something neither of them thought they would have.
Mr Hurle added: “I thought this was the last place I would have been able to work. Once I got this opportunity to work in my community, I don’t think I could do anything else now.
“I could not walk away from this community, it is my community it is where I am from.
“I had an opportunity when I was younger to move to Cyprus and do sports there. I turned it down because I am from a council estate, I want to work on one. That is my home, that is where I feel safe. Seacroft is a community, it is a family.”
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