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University of East London students pledge to save youngsters' lives

PUBLISHED: 10:00 03 March 2019

Geoff Thompson MBE talking to students at the University of East London USS Campus. Picture: KEN MEARS

Geoff Thompson MBE talking to students at the University of East London USS Campus. Picture: KEN MEARS

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More than 300 students have taken part in a coaching day aimed at saving the lives of young people.

More than 300 students have signed up to be coaches. Picture: KEN MEARSMore than 300 students have signed up to be coaches. Picture: KEN MEARS

Youngsters from the University of East London (UEL) have signed up to a social coach leadership programme pioneered by the charity, The Youth Charter.

The chairman of UEL’s board of governors, Geoff Thompson, said: “There were 135 people killed in London in 2018, of whom 40 per cent were 15 to 25 year olds. This year there have already been 11 deaths.

“Every life is priceless and I believe that we can effect change.”

Under the scheme trained mentors help tackle anti-social behaviour among disaffected young people.

Organisers hope it will keep at-risk youngsters from straying into a life of crime by involving them in activities such as sport, media, culture and the arts.

Five time world karate champion Mr Thompson set up The Youth Charter in Manchester 26-years ago after the shooting of 14-year-old Benji Stanley in Moss Side.

Its message is that sport and the arts can be used to divert disaffected youth from crime by building young people’s self-confidence and skills.

Student, Elliott Webb, said: “It was seeing violence and drugs on the streets and friends being killed that made me want to be a social coach and come on this coaching day.

“I want to be able to spin it on its head and turn things round so that instead of knives and violence, we can turn things into a positive.”

Fellow student, Joan Eitzenberger, wanted to become a social coach to motivate others.

“I believe that motivation and life purpose is very important. I grew up in different cultural backgrounds and I think I can help others through my own experiences.”

The programme targets young people aged 10 to 19 with coaches volunteering two hours a week.

Mr Thompson said that it was never too late to turn away from a life of crime.

“We talk to gang members and, while they think it’s too late to change, they may be persuaded to leave younger kids alone.”

All 300 students took part in a workshop on coaching.

They also heard a motivational talk from the chief executive of The Commonwealth Games Federation, David Grevemberg, who gave a personal reflection of working with disaffected young people around the world.

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