The St John Bosco Youth Centre is situated in an inconspicuous building, painted red on the Davitt Road in Drimnagh, Dublin 12.
The centre has been in existence since the 1940s, and has helped countless young people in the area by offering resources, classes, and most importantly, support.
The Bosco is an invaluable resource for the young people in Drimnagh, and as well as recreational and fun activities, there is always an emphasis placed on education and self-improvement by the centre’s youth workers and staff.
I spoke to Stephen Sharpe, Project Leader about the emphasis placed on leadership within the walls of the Bosco.
“Since the development of the centres DYCE café in 2006 ,a big emphasis has been placed on equipping young people to embrace leadership roles within the centre and community. The outcomes of this targeted approach to empowering our local young people has been a huge success.”
One way in which this approach has really worked is with the introduction of the Foróige developed Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Programme, which ten members of the Bosco are currently enrolled in.”
Basically, the programme aims to help the young people develop their leadership skills and confidence, and put those skills right back into their community.
Once they complete the programme, they will all receive a NUI accreditation from NUI Galway in the form of a Foundation Certificate in Youth Leadership and Community Action, and will get to don a cap and gown at a graduation ceremony.
This is huge, especially considering the challenges facing younger people in Drimnagh in terms of making the leap from second to third-level education.
I sat in on one of their meetings, where they go around in a circle and ‘check in’ about how they are all getting on(there were also spice bags included in the meeting. A definite perk). This type of focused attention on the students of the course is something that has helped them a lot.
For John and Jordan, confidence has been the key aspect of the programme for them. When Jordan first started, he ‘wouldn’t even look at people’, and John, who wants to be a teacher, was nervous about reading aloud in front of other people.
Eric has seen his attitude to life in general change, where before he would just turn things down, now he ‘actually gives it a go’
Jordan spoke about how often in schools, it’s difficult for students to get individual attention while in a course like this the small numbers ensure everyone is nurtured and cared for equally.
‘On the first day here saying my own name was a challenge, and I felt extremely uncomfortable’.
One student, Emily said that the course had boosted her self-esteem when it had previously been quite low. Another, Ryan, emphasised that there’s ‘no right or wrong answer’, and students don’t feel embarrassed to ask questions.
They can speak honestly about how they are feeling, and what they are learning, without feeling like they are struggling for attention.
This isn’t to say that the course hasn’t been without its challenges for the 10 students involved.
Stephen noted as the project leader that some people had to work harder than others in certain areas. Ryan’s whole outlook on the course has changed. He went from feeling apathetic ‘I don’t want to do this, I want to drop out’, to now enrolling in a college course to become a qualified youth worker.
As the course involves a lot of learning by doing, many of the students pick up and hone skills they may not have known they had. Kamelia has noticed that younger people in the Bosco now view her as a mentor, and someone they can approach for advice or even just to lend a listening ear.
She’s also seen changes in how she handles things in her own life.
‘I’ve definitely seen changes in me anger-wise. I’m less impulsive, whereas before I would have just lost my temper straight away’.
This sentiment was echoed by Emily, who had similar struggles with her temper and dealing with conflict.
The rewards reaped by the people in the programme are massive, from gaining self-awareness, leadership skills, and confidence, to having made as Adam put it; ‘a great bunch of friends’.
Youth worker Lorraine Flynn summed up their journey:
“With so many young people in Irish society lacking a focus and direction it has been amazing to observes these 10 participants develop a positive sense of self and a motivation to progress on completing their leadership programme”.