Words by Katie, 17, Barking and Dagenham
Youth Zones are brilliant – open for children and young people after school, at weekends and school holidays.
My Youth Zone is called Future. It is really special to me and so many young people. There's nothing else like this around here and we get to try a bit of everything - rock climbing, using the salon, the gym and more, all for 50p. We can get a hot meal here too, there's always something available and it's cheap!
I remember when I first walked into Future, I was 14. I was so nervous and really shy. I didn't really talk to anyone at that point in my life, I had no friends and would spend most of my time at home. Now I'm here 5 times a week and you can't keep me away!
It's the youth workers here that have made the biggest difference. It's hard to describe how amazing they are. They aren't your friend, they aren't your teacher, they're something in between. They are so welcoming, they'll ask you how you are, always give 110% and you know they are always going to be there to talk to. If you don't feel like talking that's ok too – they will get you messing around doing fun activities instead.
The youth workers here have really supported me. They inspired me to become a young leader, so I now get the chance to work with younger members. I feel like a role model now, inspiring others the way my youth workers inspired me.
I always had a passion for music but didn't have the confidence until I came to Future. But they've supported me bit by bit, giving me opportunities to perform to bigger and bigger audiences. I spend most of my time in the music room when I'm here, took a GCSE in music and I'm now at college studying music too. They've helped me with other life skills too, like how to develop my CV.
I've been given brilliant opportunities to go on residential trips meeting other young people from different Youth Zones and learning new teamwork skills. I used to be scared to be away from home but now I have friends from around the country.
I still feel the same energy walking through the doors now that I did 4 years ago. Future is somewhere I know I can always be fully myself. It makes a difference to know someone is there for you. I don't feel judged and I know they care about me.