By Leto Dietrich, UK Youth Voice representative for East Midlands. A version of this blog was delivered by Leto to the House of Lords Citizenship & Civic Engagement committee.
For National Storytellers week, I wanted to tell the story of what helped me develop into the person I am today – my engagement in youth services.
I currently represent the East Midlands on UK Youth Voice, the national youth board of young people from UK Youth member clubs and organisations. We believe that all young people should be entitled to a minimum standard of youth service provision that includes a safe space, engagement with trusted adults and peer networks.
For many young people, their youth club is their only safe space. Youth services underpin many other essential services for young people including mental health services, citizenship education, social mixing and training. They are crucial in supporting young people through their journey.
When I was 14 years old, I got the opportunity to get involved in my local youth service through work experience at school. I’d never got involved before and afterwards, I never looked back.
The youth centre provided me with a safe space to freely express myself through a variety of projects. This included creating music projects for the whole community to enjoy or running a Friday night session. Whilst I was there I become friends with people from across the community – people I would not have met had I not attended the youth centre. Plus, through volunteering I learned many skills such as budgeting, admin and leadership training.
All this experience allowed me to make the next step. After a year, an opportunity to join the Daventry District Youth Forum came up. This was a fantastic opportunity to showcase my passion and skills previously learned on a larger scale.
Unfortunately, that youth centre which gave me and many other young people so many opportunities, is sadly not there anymore. This is a disappointing reality in many areas.
8 years later and still actively engaged with youth work, I am now a National UK Youth Voice board member representing young people all over the UK. The support I received then is undoubtedly the reason I am where I am now.
My story is how youth work helped me, and how it’s vital we invest in youth services for others to have a similar story to tell.