Innovative youth project celebrates 10 years

AN INNOVATIVE and successful youth programme which supports young people at risk in Hastings is celebrating ten years of working with the community. The Respond Academy, set up in 2004 by dedicated husband and wife team Pablo and Jc Mcfee, offers young people in the town the opportunity to develop their skills and nurture their talents.

Pablo and Jc, both experienced youth workers, have worked with young adults who are risk of offending and are not in education, employment or training in the Hastings area for a decade, helping to provide youngsters to gain new skills.

The academy offers a specialist education programme using arts, music and media to encourage and support young people into working in creative fields. Pablo said: “I just can’t believe it’s been 10 years. It’s ridiculous when you think about some of the things that have been achieved! I was talking to record company a couple weeks ago about two artists who have been signed, DJ Swifty and Lil Lively, who both attended our Hollington session back in 2004.”

Over the last ten years, the academy, has been involved in various projects. In 2006, academy members were commissioned to perform on Brighton Seafront as part of the Brighton Hip-Hop Festival.

Registered as an Arts Awards Welcome Site in 2007, nine young people passed their Silver Arts Awards, the equivalent of gaining to 2 GCSEs.

And later that year New Horizons School, in Beauchamp Road, commissioned Respond Academy as a pilot project to deliver off-site provision for vulnerable students.

Pablo told the Observer that one of the highlights, although there are many, was a youth-led under 18s night which ran from 2006 until 2010. He said: “We supported the young people to manage their own under 18s night. There were some people on the council and in the police that were against it but the young people managed to change the attitude of Hastings Council, Safer Hastings and the police.”

Talking about what the academy aims to acheive in the next ten years, Pablo added: “We want to see young people in paid employment and earning a wage working. It’s all about these young people earning money and staying in Hastings. So the next ten years is part of our thousand year plan! Building upon the foundations, creating new opportunities and seeing these young people benefit financially, spiritually and socially.” For more information visit:‎