How Doncaster organisation is helping youngsters grow

Mexborough 'Links 4 Youth' has seen 1,000 teenagers through its doors since it was set up around eight years ago - giving them a learning, social and supportive platform outside of school.
Mexborough 'Links 4 Youth' has seen 1,000 teenagers through its doors since it was set up around eight years ago - giving them a learning, social and supportive platform outside of school.

It’s the volunteer-run group which has helped nurture a Young Apprentice winner and a star of television show Waterloo Road.

s The high profile television successes are among the achievements of the Mexborough Links 4 Youth project, which is run by a team which has also won an award for its charity work.

Ashleigh Porter-Exley

Ashleigh Porter-Exley

Links 4 Youth has seen 1,000 teenagers through its doors since it was set up around eight years ago.

Doncaster Council says the group could show that despite difficult economic times and sweeping Government cuts, there is hope that communities can help keep services running. It believes the “big family” of young people at Links 4 Youth, has helped to cut anti-social behaviour in the area.

Youngsters have something to do and also ‘look out’ for each other outside of the organised evenings. Many past members are going on to have successful lives.

Jill Arkley-Jevons, 61, helped set up the group which now relies on a dedicated team of five volunteers. It meets after school every night of the week and is free.It provides everything from sporting activities, dancing, educational visits, days out – and big charity fundraisers.

She said: “I was a former Millennium Volunteer and from the work through that I noticed there was nothing for kids to do in the area after school, particularly those under 16.

“I got a group of volunteers together and we started these after school groups.

“For me it is a privilege to work with young people. They get so much bad press but all they need sometimes is a chance, an environment where they can tap into their talents.

“I get so much satisfaction to see young people blossom.”

The group has raised almost £20,000 over the past few years. Its signature events being plays at the Dearne Valley Playhouse which are written and performed by the young people. The group was successful in applying for £100,000 of funding from Children In Need.

The group has bagged a host of awards. One it is most proud of is the Third Sector For Excellence Award for fundraising in 2007. It beat David Walliams to the award, following his swim across the English Channel for Sport Relief. It also recently won the South Yorkshire Neighbourhood Watch Award for Inspired Youth Engagement.

Of the many youngsters to come through the doors is Ashleigh Porter-Exley, 17, who won Young Apprentice . Matthew Leyland, another past attendee, has had small parts in the BBC drama Waterloo Road.

Megan Griffiths, 23, of Mexborough, has become a teacher.

She said: “Going to the group, which is like a big family, gave me that confidence that I can achieve something if I work hard. I still go along to the group because it gave me a lot.”

Richie Emmet, 15, has attended for five years. He said: “I saw them playing baseball out on the field and went along and have been enjoying it ever since. It just broadens your horizons.”

Mexborough School pupil Paige Roberts, 13, has been attending for three years after she was encouraged to go along by friends.

She said: “I have learnt lots of things, met new friends and just had a great time.”

Eileen Cooper, sums up what the group has achieved.

She said: “This group has turned this area around for good by giving young people a place to come to where they feel secure, feel wanted and can make a difference to themselves. I really admire this group. It has given young people in this area hope.”

Jill advises other groups in the Doncaster to persevere when it comes to applying for charity funding. She said there is money out there but it is imperative time is taken to fill out applications, which can be long and detailed.