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Jonathan Evison is Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside and a Founder Patron of Horizon, Grimsby Youth Zone. Here Jonathan shares his passion for supporting to young people, and how we all have a role to play in ensuring opportunity is open to those who need it.
Youth clubs weren’t that interesting in my day. I can’t play table tennis and am no good at pool. I didn’t share many interests with others who attended the youth club, so I found it very limiting. In my area youth workers core hours were often Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm with only limited flexibility. It should have been on weekends and evenings; they should have been starting at 3 pm, but that’s how it was set up back then
I’d heard about Horizon, Grimsby Youth Zone through my role as Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside. I was very interested to learn more, so I visited a Youth Zone in Manchester. I was astounded by the many different things on offer. At least 20 activities every night; sports, a climbing wall, media, photography, all sorts. The training kitchen stood out for me; young people preparing meals. Some young people didn’t know how to cook, and the Youth Zone taught them this vital life skill, knowledge they could take home and share with their families. This is exactly what we need in Grimsby – a place open during crucial times when young people need them. It was exactly what I expected, and I took the first opportunity, in my capacity as the PCC, to sign up to support as a Founder Patron.
Reflecting on my visit, I could see that it’s all about providing opportunity, exploring, and widening young people’s aspirations. The saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is so true. You need diverse company—good, solid, supportive adults who can advise. Often, the young people we’re trying to help the most don’t have a trusted relationship with an adult in their life. It’s about giving them the words and voice to communicate their wants and needs.
Young people have always needed support; some support that’s historically been there is not there now. OnSide’s approach to community engagement and collaboration with local organisations was fundamental when I first heard about the Youth Zone. It’s about brilliant local organisations coming together with the Youth Zone to give young people the best support possible.
It’s much more complex being young these days, and young people have to decide what they will do with their lives when they’re very young. Growing up, I had a football, a cricket ball and a park I’d go to. All my spare time was spent playing with friends; it was much simpler. I went on to do an apprenticeship, as nobody in my family had gone to university then, so it wasn’t on my agenda. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done but didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I haven’t followed a set path.
Industry professionals, business leaders, practitioners in the arts, and individuals from all sectors need to talk to young people and give them opportunities. It’s great to have the openness and attitude of ‘the answer is yes, now what is the question?’. Youth Zones give young people more experiences, conversations, and opportunities to broaden their horizons, increasing their understanding of the world. That’s very appealing to a prospective employer.
We have around 120 projects in the Humber region, not all for young people, but a significant proportion does similar things to what Youth Zones offer but on a more local level. Sometimes the young people we work with are lost. They don’t know what’s out there, they don’t like where they are, and they can sometimes be challenging, understandably, after being let down by people so often. They push boundaries because they expect to be disappointed again. What these young people have in common is they’re looking for something. If you give them the opportunity, they will fly. But you must have somewhere for them to go where they’ll thrive, and Youth Zones are a big part of that.
I encourage participation in both existing and future Youth Zones. I’d recommend local businesses, youth organisations, and the community to get behind a Youth Zone if one comes to their area. It works and offers so much to young people. I’m excited for Horizon Youth Zone to open. I’ll be a regular visitor and an active supporter of the Youth Zone and those being developed in other areas.