Sam Smith: The Value of Storytelling

For me, sharing my story has empowered me to live each day to make a difference to the lives of young people. I live each day as if it was my last day and if I have not had an impact on someone’s live my life is not worth living.

Growing up as a teenager I felt let down by the system labelled a failure, a no hoper. Coming from a single parent background from a tough council estate with very little stability in my life, I was rejected by my step father at the age of 13. I spent all of my teenage years, and much of my adult life, in the care of the local authority sleeping rough on the streets and spending time in a number of youth offender institutions across the UK. When my first child was born I was determined that I would provide love, care and strong family values for him – I knew I had to act given these new responsibilities. One day I decided enough was enough and that I had to better my life the only way I knew how. I decided I would go and buy a bucket and sponges and go out into the local community washing cars from the boot of my car.

Knocking on doors, touting for business, I soon grew a loyal customer base. So much so, that I needed to fund my rapidly growing business. I was directed to the Prince’s Trust where I undertook business management courses and ultimately secured the funding to buy my first van, and better equipment. I won numerous awards and was nominated for the Princess Trust Business of the year in 2000 becoming a North West Winner.

My isolation and lack of support during childhood lead me to founding Support the Youth– an organisation providing young people with the skills and confidence to gain employment. I have the empathy and the life experience to share with young people.  I am passionate about creating change and have been able to provide single handed support to over 320 individuals. I have been working with schools to run early intervention programmes for those children who are at risk of exclusion.  My clear vision and mission are to inspire and empower the next generation through mentoring enterprise programmes and instil in them that with ambition and determination anyone can achieve their dreams. My digital platform ‘I can Trust’ (icantrust.co.uk) aims to help young people to raise their aspirations and create an online community across towns and cities in the UK building a directory of businesses opportunities.

For me, sharing my story has empowered me to live each day to make a difference to the lives of young people. I live each day as if it was my last day and if I have not had an impact on someone’s live my life is not worth living. Bradley, a young person I have supported felt isolated; not leaving his bedroom for 12 months, feeling let down by the education system where he was made to feel a failure. Through Support the Youth he built his confidence and was given stability to help him create a positive change in his life.

Now, more than ever young people feel voiceless. Many feel disenfranchised with the country and with systems that they feel neglect them and do not listen to their needs.  There are a lot of parallels between how I felt growing up and how young people feel today. I can fully relate to the challenges that young people face in today’s society, I was labelled a no hope, a failure rejected and failed by a broken system. I felt invisible, unsupported, isolated.  I want to give a voice to the next generation and change young people’s mindsets.

Support the Youth is a vehicle for guidance and empowerment. I believe my story can inspire others, and help give power to communities. Through sharing my success story I want to give hope to others that can relate to my journey. The next generation are the digital natives, we need to be tapping into those skills and giving them a voice and an opportunity to speak out.

Sam will be speaking at Being the Story Friday 16 September Conway Hall. Book your place now at www.beingthestory.co.uk to hear Sam and 11 other thought-provoking speakers.

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