My HeadStart journey – how I managed to lean on others and still find my independence!

Adam – Member of the Resilience Revolution

Well, where on earth to begin.

Ok, so how about right here and now. I’ve just turned 18 and I attend Blackpool and Fylde College studying child care. I’m currently on placement at a nearby special school and I absolutely love it. The best part? The fact that I feel valued and appreciated by the young people and despite being on placement, the teachers thank me each and every week for my support – which makes me feel great! I feel pretty happy right now; I enjoy college, I have some cool friends, home life is supportive and of course – I love HeadStart and the Resilience Revolution.

But it wasn’t always like this.

Back at school I was overlooked regularly due to my learning disability, which constantly put me at a disadvantage. I found friendships challenging and was regularly bullied – sometimes by the mean kids, but sometimes by people who I thought were my friends. If it wasn’t for a few adults in school who really took the time to help me, I don’t know where I’d be. I started to realise I wanted a career working with children and young people, but I never knew how, or felt confident to find out. All in all, I felt a bit lost.

Then I found my voice with HeadStart.

I first got involved with HeadStart when an opportunity came up in school to help with some research into a project around Creative Experiences. I joined a small group of students and we had the chance to look at what we felt ‘creative experiences’ for young people were, we developed a survey to research what the wider school thought too. We then helped to shape the project design for commissioning and delivery. This piece of work gave me an experience of influencing things and making a change and I wanted to take it further and broaden my horizons. I began to feel more confident and felt heard and that I had something to contribute.

After dipping my toe in the water of co-production, it wasn’t long before I had the chance to do it again, but on a bigger scale. When I was approached to join HeadStart’s Young People’s Executive Group (YPEG) I felt as though the label of having a disability had been lifted and I was accepted for being me. Of course I was nervous, who wouldn’t be? But the excitement prevailed and I joined up with the rest of the young people to have my say in making Blackpool a more resilient town. On the back of YPEG, I am now also an established member of the Revolution Researchers and the campaign group Same Pay for the Same Day – a campaign looking at drawing attention to the significant gap between the pay of young people and adults doing the same job.

Unlike most other ‘youth groups’, the co-production groups I’ve been part of with HeadStart have given me more than opportunities to make friends and have fun with both my peers and the adults within the programme. It’s done that, in abundance, and this has been one of the things that has helped me most. In addition to that, I have gained so much in terms of experience and life skills.

  • I’ve delivered presentations and speeches to professionals and members of the community.
  • I’ve visited London to discuss the government’s Green Paper with stakeholders from across the UK.
  • I’ve been part of interview panels for candidates wanting to join the staff team at HeadStart and their partners.
  • I’ve been part of the school innovation fund team, ensuring that young people’s voice is throughout the bids and projects involved.
  • I’ve helped deliver workshops and training for young people and practitioners, as well as access a fair share of training myself; introduction to resilience, confidence club and many more.
  • I’ve learned how to create digital content including films and animation – I’ve even had a starring role from time to time!
  • I’ve helped the programme research and evaluate its projects, as well as presenting the findings in cool ways – such as infographics or visual reports working alongside a graphic designer.

The list, quite literally, goes on and on.

These groups are more than just a ‘youth group’, we are the voice of HeadStart, we are recognised and treated as part of the team and this has been a huge contributor to my increase in confidence,  self-worth and sense of belonging.

I now know and understand myself and I’m cool with who I am. I no longer let the opinions of others get me down, or hold me back. The label no longer determines what I can and can’t do. It’s liberating to think I am proving the people wrong who told me I wouldn’t do anything with my life, that I’d be on the dole by the time I reached 18. HeadStart has given me purpose, direction and something to believe in. I’ve developed my confidence, I feel validated and accepted for who I am and the things I am capable of. I’ve learned how to make friends and whilst I have made them laugh, they have made me feel part of something. Most importantly, I’ve been able to speak up and make a change and that feels awesome.

I’ve found my place in the world and I love it.



Proud member of the Resilience Revolution

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