2023 KLA Community Ambassadors (like their wildlife-garden) have grown so much

KLA Community Ambassadors at work in nature

Hello, it’s Sophie, your Arts Engagement Worker dropping in to tell you about a group of community ambassadors from King’s Lynn Academy (KLA) and how their ability to stand comfortably within activism and make a difference has inspired me. 

Over the last two years we have been working with KLA on creative social action. Where students have been developing a youth-led project on an issue that matters to them. In this case, they selected climate change and wellbeing.

This group was the first I met when starting my new role and thanks to members warm welcome I knew this job was one I was going to love. There is something so special about meeting enthusiastic young people who are in the process of recognising the power of their own voice and its ability to create proactive change.

It’s a skill they have learnt much sooner than I did, despite a strong knowing of where my morals sat as a teenager. For example, I knew I was a feminist, but it’s taken me a long time to settle into someone who can eloquently explain those convictions and be motivated to continually evolve myself to serve them.

When I first met the group at KLA it was June. We met beside their wildlife garden, which they’d been working on for the previous academic year. As we sat on the grass and they explained the area to me, telling me their plans for the following couple of months; I felt very daunted.

Soon, I’d be leading the group and helping them achieve their goals. They were galvanized, sharp and certain in their collective aims. Not what I expected.

It has been a real joy to see these young people flourish as their plans have become reality, including hosting a fete at the end of the academic year. The care and responsibility they took for their individual stalls was just as keen and important to them as the care and responsibility they held towards their actions in tackling the climate crisis.

They were able to flourish and confidently use their voices. Thanks to support and funding by Clarion Futures, HAYN Community Foundation, #iwill fund, and the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport plus help from the Broads Authority and artists and facilitators from the community.

We are always looking for additional funders and their impact cannot be ignored. Their contributions allow these young people to have experiences and gain skills that stay with them into adulthood and which they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

I was so proud to recently see them representing themselves as the champions of their community they are – both in terms of school and their wider world, as they were at the BBC Make A Difference Awards. They bagged the Green Award on the night.

The participants were so stunned and just kept saying “I’m so happy, I can’t believe we’ve won” or as I heard Brogan say “yeah, of course we did”. Yes Brogan, that’s exactly the self-belief you should have in yourself!

Teacher Brian Reeve-Hayes warned me that when I return this school year that all the work last year and the radio award has led to some buzz about the school. So I can expect to see a lot more students poking their head in to see what this group is all about – and I can’t wait!

I want the King’s Lynn Academy Youth Project as it’ll be known to grow and develop just like its participants have.

Students spoke to so many people at the awards and told them about the KLA wellbeing garden, showcasing just how huge the benefits of a project like this can be. They have grown from being shy and quiet into eloquent, proud and confident young people with passionate views and the conviction and agency to voice them.

Don’t just take it from me though. Have a listen to KLA’s Mr Reeve-Hayes and members of the group  talk about it on BBC Radio Norfolk here:

On to more of the same next year I hope. I’ll keep you updated on what we’re up to!

To find out more about all of The Garage Trust’s work with people across Norfolk, view or download a copy of our Creative Co-Designing With Our Communities report.

Our autumn term of classes have begun but it’s not too late to sign-up. Our friendly front-of-house team is happy to answer any questions. Give them a call on 01553 277919, email info@theworkshop.org.uk or pop into our space in New Conduit Street, King’s Lynn.

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