We were laughing and swapping memories of the past year as we enjoyed our meal at Nando’s on the Cowley Road this summer. The group was a bunch of 16-18 year olds, celebrating passing the course they had been engaged in during the past academic year.
Fran (Chaplaincy Youth Worker and Oxford CYM tutor) and I were appreciating celebrating alongside them. One of the lads insisted on buying our (soft!) drinks, two are interested in volunteering with Oxford Youth Works, another is now supporting our teaching with the current cohort but most importantly all had a taste of what it feels like to make a difference in someone else’s life. I count myself highly fortunate to walk alongside young people as they learn to look outwards, beginning to really see other people and their needs, perhaps for the first time.
One of the projects Oxford CYM has recently created and piloted with Oxford Youth Works is a course aimed at sixth formers, which trains young people as peer educators. We successfully ran ‘eXplore: Youth Work & Peer Leadership’ at St. Gregory the Great RC School in Oxford last year and are now running it with a new group this year.
This has been an exciting venture for us and, for some of these young people, it’s become an expression of their faith. At St. Greg’s, eXplore is viewed as a way of enabling students to experience some practical theology as part of their RE provision but elsewhere it could as easily fit within the PSHCE programme. The particular group celebrating in Nando’s included young people from a range of Christian and Muslim backgrounds and our desire is that this course will have given them the impetus to live out their faith in increasingly meaningful and culturally relevant ways.
It is perhaps too easy to be sucked into stereotypical assessments of young people as inherently unruly, work shy or somehow in need of fixing but these deficit models always fail to see their amazing creativity, passion and longing for authentic community. We believe young people of all faiths and none need greater opportunities to serve and grow as leaders within their schools, colleges and local communities. eXplore equips sixth formers with the skills and confidence to create, shape, deliver and evaluate youth work with young people and gain a plethora of transferable skills along the way.
One young man, with a profound sense of achievement, told me:
“I know I’ve made a difference by inspiring young people to do better than they believed they could. I sit and chat to young people and we talk about life and where they want to go. I’m just trying to be a good role model to the next generation.”
We are eager to see what the current group might achieve. What impact could they have within their school community and beyond?
We are in discussions with other schools and community-based projects about developing the course in their locations and are excited to see what shape the course may take when embedded within different settings.
If you think eXplore could work in your local school or youth & community project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.