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Why young people need role models

Growing up can be hard. And it’s harder for some children than others. When you grow up surviving day to day, it can be difficult to see how life can be any different. Positive role models can show young people another path. Helping them better understand who they are and what they want from their future.


Advice from experience

Taylor works for Youth Ink, a London based charity where project workers have lived experience of criminal exploitation and the issues facing young people.

Looking after yourself

I had to learn how to make  money... I had to learn how to make  money...

This helps build trust. Taylor knows the pressures that young people face. 

‘I wasn’t 8 years old wanting to smoke weed and carry knives.'

'But I wanted to have money in my pocket. I wanted to have gas on my gas meter. I wanted a warm meal.’ 

‘I wanted my mum to be happy and not having to always worry about being evicted.'

Just surviving

For Taylor, it felt like he didn’t have a choice. When your focus is living day to day, it can be hard to imagine a better future. 

I don’t think a lot of people are living. They’re just surviving.

‘I lived in an area where people were worried about getting robbed just because it was dark outside.’ 

'I was carrying a knife because I didn’t want to get stabbed.'

Close up of a blonde haired girl stood in front of a house, looking directly at the camera.

The effects of child poverty

Poverty impacts every aspect of a child's life. Money worries can isolate young people from friends and put them at risk of criminal exploitation.

Feeling trapped

Even at a young age, Taylor was aware that another life was possible. But his family couldn't afford it. It felt like he was trapped by circumstances beyond his control.

Noticing the difference

Portrait of a black teenage boy in a white t shirt looking seriously at the camera.

‘If I’d known some of the friends I met earlier, I might have been on a different path.’

‘I would be at a friend’s house and they would have a separate fridge for drinks. I’d go home and the bread would be mouldy.’ 

‘I’d have to decide whether to spend the last £2 I had that I was saving for school tomorrow or go hungry.’ 

‘These were decisions I had to live with, some of my friends didn’t.’

A turning point

Going to jail when I was 19 was a big hit because I was on my own.

Being convicted and sent to prison changed everything. Isolated from his friends, Taylor was forced to re-evaluate his future.

Taking a different path

When Taylor got out of prison, he knew he had to make a change. 

‘My mum has a good friend, she works in property.'

'I was at her house and saw how she was living, and I was so mad at myself.’ 

'If I had stayed here or visited, I probably would have focused more in school and been more motivated to do that because I would have seen a path for myself.’ 

If I’d known I had this opportunity... If I’d known I had this opportunity...

Showing a different way

Taylor uses his experiences to couch young people. But we can all be role models. We all have a responsibility to show young people that, no matter what they are going through, things can get better. 

You can’t be what you can’t see.

‘If you’re not seeing people like yourself flourish in a legitimate lifestyle, where’s your influence?’