Updated: Dec 17, 2021
I’m Kristie and I was the project leader for OnTarget when it was just an idea. One of our Directors at the time wanted to tackle youth offending in Sheffield and challenged our team to create a social enterprise that could have a real impact on young people at risk of offending throughout Sheffield. Our team set about speaking to local organisations that tackle youth offending and reoffending, academics working in this area, and ex-offenders that were dedicated to tackling youth offending in a variety of different ways. Through our research we found links between youth offending, exclusion, homelessness and re-offending. We spoke to people tackling all aspects of these challenges and gained insight into the process for tackling reoffending in Sheffield and we found a gap. Currently, and rightly so, resources are directed at resolving criminal behaviour before a young person receives a conviction. However, due to limited resources on schools and support services, there was little support for young people who have been identified as at risk but have not yet had interactions with the police.
We realised that we needed to engage schools in the conversation. Consequently, we started speaking with schools in the local area to understand their experiences dealing with at-risk youth. We found that they are well-placed to identify the young people that need help and they suggested that we should focus our efforts on young people at risk of exclusion. All of our research was collated and we found that three things were key to tackling youth offending: work with young people at the earliest possible stage, re-engage them with their studies, and provide them with physical activity to engage and reward them.
With the help of the wider Enactus team and specialists in education, we created a mentoring programme to re-engage young people in education and help them succeed. There was only one thing missing: sports. With the hard work of the team, we were able to get Sheffield Wednesday on board to provide football coaching. They also offered incentives to young people that succeeded on the programme by offering them a space at their training camps. This was such an achievement!
A school we had been working with signed up to pilot our programme with 9 weeks of mentoring and sports. The pilot was definitely a learning curve and we faced challenges. We quickly learned that schools are under-resourced which presented challenges like finding space for mentoring to take place and staff to open and close sports facilities. We also faced the challenge of keeping young people engaged with learning throughout the mentoring sessions. However, we adapted the project to overcome these and run a successful pilot. We saw a huge difference in the young people we worked with, they were more confident and more engaged with the sessions by the end of the project. Our sessions also had a positive impact on mental health and all-round wellbeing. The school noted that students were more engaged with lessons and eagerly awaited the sports sessions with Sheffield Wednesday. One of the students even made it into the Sheffield Wednesday training camp!
We learned a lot from the pilot programme, allowing the new OnTarget team to take over the project and implement all that we had learnt, adapting the project to continue the much-needed work of OnTarget.
You can learn more about OnTarget by visiting their website here: https://enactussheffield.org/ontarget/index.htm and if you are interested in making a difference and being a part of this project, please apply through the Enactus website application form!