Academy helps to bring hope to hard-hit mining communities

GROWING up in a deprived ex-mining community, many young people may feel their life chances are limited.

The Burntwood Community Centre

But now disadvantaged children and teenagers in a West Yorkshire unemployment hotspot are being offered a brighter future thanks to the SESKU Academy.

With the help of National Lottery funding, it offers much-needed opportunities to young people in South Kirkby, South Elmsall and Upton.

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Manager Adam Redfern said: “It’s difficult being a young person growing up in this community.

“Since the closure of the pits in the early 90s there has been nothing really created that gives as many jobs as they did.

“The area has suffered through that and there is a general lack of aspirations and confidence.”

The Academy has done much to turn that around since it was founded in 2006 as a small boxing and martial arts club.

Since then it worked with more than 5,000 children and young people, delivered more than 400 qualifications through its accredited training courses and helped 120 teenagers and young adults into full-time employment.

It has also developed and opened two community centres – Burntwood and Northfield – in South Kirkby.

The Academy’s Young People’s Future project was awarded £500,000 by the Big Lottery Fund in 2011.

The five-year grant pays for six youth work and sports delivery staff as well as premises and equipment rental for the sports, dance, arts and youth club sessions it runs.

“The Big Lottery Fund has made all this possible and without the funding for our core staff and accommodation our organisation would not exist and would not have made the legacy we have achieved,” said Mr Redfern.

“It is essential to us as an organisation and for our young people to be given the same opportunities as everybody else in larger towns and cities.”

Among SESKU’s success stories is a teenager named Beth, who was regularly getting into trouble with police, drinking on the streets and missing school before she started attending its youth club.

With the support of project workers, she has turned her life around and found a job, as well as beginning to lead dance classes and youth groups in the hope of inspiring others like her.

“Young People’s Future has been great and has helped me to sort my life out and get back on track,” she said.

“They also put me through my Zumba instructor course which has boosted my confidence and increased my initiative to try harder at life to achieve my goals.”

Just as the Academy encourages young people like Beth to aim high, the charity also has high hopes for its own future.

“At the moment we are operating out of the community centre but we would like to create a state-of-the-art youth centre – one that captures the imagination of young people, somewhere that they have been consulted on and they can have an input in,” said Mr Redfern.

“Hopefully then in the future we can raise their aspirations even further and create the opportunites that young people in our area deserve.”

The funding SESKU has received is part of more than £771m awarded to communities across West Yorkshire since the National Lottery was launched in 1994.

Wakefield has received 1,443 grants totalling more than £114m.

Of this, more than £18m was shared out to health, education, environment and other charity projects via the Big Lottery Fund.

For more information about the SESKU Academy and Young People’s Future, visit www.seskuacademy.co.uk.