Inspiring teenagers on gang crime: 'not all young people are the same'

With concerns about vandalism and youth gangs high in people’s minds, it would be easy to tar all young people with the same brush.

But the message from a project training teenagers to better themselves is loud and clear: we have some stars in our community.

Arun Youth Projects have highlighted the work of their youth leaders. Emma Biffi, 32, Stacie Holmes, 17, Shannon McNeil, 16, and Ben Young, 25

Arun Youth Projects have highlighted the work of their youth leaders. Emma Biffi, 32, Stacie Holmes, 17, Shannon McNeil, 16, and Ben Young, 25

Stacie Holmes, 17, and Shannon McNeil, 16, both from Wick, are part of Arun Youth Project’s young leader programme, having been club members for years.

They have clocked up 148 hours of volunteering between them since September, organising and running sessions packed with games for the project’s eight to 11-year-olds group.

To those concerned about youth anti-social behaviour in Littlehampton, Stacie said: “Not all young people are the same. Some people actually want to help the community.

“Seeing the children with a smile on their face at the end of a session is the best feeling.

“I just want to help them be successful.”

The Littlehampton Academy pupil Shannon, who also helps out at the project’s soccer school, got a place at Chichester College to study football coaching because of her volunteering. Regarding negative comments about young people on social media, she said: “It makes me a bit angry sometimes because people don’t realise what we do for the community.”

The project puts on eight youth club sessions every week across Littlehampton, Rustington, and East Preston.

It launched in October, having previously been Project 82. Young people choose to attend, rather than some where teens are referred by a third party.

Social worker Ben Young, 25, said they also do outreach work with young people on the streets and build relationships with them.

He said: “They feel frustrated about the way they are being treated. They say we get asked to move on, but we aren’t doing anything wrong.”

Project leader Emma Biffi, 32, said it was her responsibility to tell the town how ‘lovely to work with’ most young people are.

To join Arun Youth Projects and find out more about their work, click here.

To read about what Sussex Police is doing to deal with youth crime in our area, click here.