Positive Futures is a national community-based inclusion programme for young people aged 10 to 19. Here, one young graduate from the Islington scheme, which is managed by Arsenal in the Community with support from Islington Housing, reveals how it helped him give something back to his community. This is 23-year-old Rhys Shirley-Clarke’s story...
“I grew up in Finsbury Park, close to the Andover Estate, and still live there now. I attended Pooles Park Primary School before going on to Holloway School for my secondary education. I loved all sport.
“I played cricket up to London schools’ standard, and represented the school at every sport you could imagine, from athletics to basketball – despite my lack of height – but I always loved football. I set a school goalscoring record in Year 9 and then went on to represent the Islington and Camden district.
“Arsenal Positive Futures dropped some leaflets off at my secondary school in my first year and that’s where my relationship with the club began. I attended both the Andover Estate and Market Road football sessions, so straight after school I would walk down to the sessions – that was after a box of chicken and chips, but I didn’t tell the coaches!
“In my latter years at school I asked to do my work experience with Positive Futures, and after that they offered me voluntary hours, then casual work. Positive Futures put me on courses such as my FA Level 1 coaching qualification, first aid, drug and alcohol awareness and even courses to help us manage behaviour on our estate sessions.
“Then while in college I played for the Boreham Wood Under- 18 and reserve teams, where I did my FA Level 2 coaching qualification. I continued to work with Positive Futures and was also offered work at the Arsenal Soccer Schools in the summer.
“After a couple years I started coaching for Arsenal on sessions in pupil referral units – primary and secondary. A year later, the head teacher of the primary PRU asked if I would do some voluntary hours.
“I accepted and they later put me on agency work and then offered me a full-time role. I still, after my full-time work in the PRU, go out on to the estates and coach on Arsenal sessions.
"Yes it’s a job, but I feel every time I see these young people that I’m giving back. I want some of these young people to follow the path I have and not get caught up in what might be happening in their area.”
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