School has been tough for 15-year-old Matthew.
The part of South Abingdon, where he lives, is ranked in the bottom 1% of the country for education. It’s a place where obstacles for young people are common, and opportunities seem limited. Add to that his low confidence, and life for Matthew has been a struggle and frustration, an everyday experience.
One of the people he got to know was Matt, a youth leader who himself grew up on the Blackbird Leys estate. Matt had been on the verge of dropping out of school when he met a mentor who helped him to identify and develop his God-given potential.
This often led to him failing to turn up to school. When he did make it, his anger sometimes boiled over into violent outbursts.
But over the last few months his mum, step-dad and teachers have noticed an unexpected change.
Growing in Confidence
When he started coming along to a Tuesday lunch club for students who were struggling with school, Matthew began to grow in confidence. Invited to take part in preparations for the Young Achievers Dinner last year, he responded with impressive commitment. He didn’t miss a single one of the six week sessions, getting to know other young people from South Abingdon and further afield, and spending hours learning card tricks at home to entertain guests on the night.
Hunger for Change
One of the people he got to know was Matt, a youth leader who himself grew up on the Blackbird Leys estate. Matt had been on the verge of dropping out of school when he met a mentor who helped him to identify and develop his God-given potential. He understands perhaps better than most Matthew’s hunger for someone to believe in him. And he knows the difference that belief can make – today, he’s the Team Leader of the Thrive Team in South Abingdon.
Unlike many other things in his life that have proved unreliable, Matthew knows Matt is not going anywhere. They meet on Tuesdays at lunch club, on Fridays for milkshake and mentoring, on Sundays at church, and – because Matt and his wife have moved into the neighbourhood – often see each other throughout the week at the shops or on the street.
Matthew has been quick and enthusiastic to seize opportunities. He’s become a committed part of his local church, demonstrating his leadership qualities by bringing new people along.
He attends as many church activities as he can, including one recent youth event at which he sang and danced his heart out, visibly bursting with a new sense of joy and freedom.
Part of that freedom is learning to leave behind unhelpful patterns of behaviour. When tension rose recently with a fellow student, he chose not to fire off an inflammatory message but to ask Matt for advice about how to respond.
Rising to the Challenge
Matthew is eager to grow. As young people like him embrace new opportunities made possible because of your support, the relentless generational cycle of deprivation gets beautifully disrupted.
A new pattern kicks in, where young people discover their true value. With the support of someone who spotted his potential, Matt rose to the challenge of becoming a youth worker. He’s now helping to meet that same thirst for significance in Matthew, who dreams of being a youth worker too. Who knows what will happen next?