I just looked through my blogs twice and realised I have not yet spoken about Annabel!!! Annabel a young person that I work with. Obviously, her name is not Annabel, but for today that is what we will call her (She would not be impressed in my chosen name. Trust me lol)
I am shocked I have not spoken about this young person. So, let me tell you. When I first meet Annabel, she was clearly deeply involved with gangs. I could tell this by many factors. She would not openly speak about this so, without any actual evidence, it was hard to get support in place for her. She had a good family and they were doing all they could to support her and keep her safe. SO, with no evidence and no safeguarding issues…well… I found myself with one of my toughest cases ever. It became apparent that Annabel had earned herself the “Top dog” spot in the local community amongst the females.
Annabel is a natural leader. When she walks, she reminds me of a young lion …just walking…learning. She has a presence that makes you know that this young person is being manufactured for greatness.
Anyway, she had earned this top dog space by, allegedly, fighting and beating the top dog before her. My goodness, Annabel was so negative when you spoke to her. She seldom spoke of aspirations but would talk about not needing GCSE’s because she would be a drug dealer. Things escalated for this young lady and agencies become involved. She would barley engage and did not want to listen.
Annabel would often come to my room and talk about not needing GCSE’s. She told me that she would not be taking her GCSE’s as she would not need them. She would often speak about how the gangs is where the money was at. When Annabel started these kind of conversations, initially I would talk about the dangers of gangs and such. This went on for a while and I realised that she was so clever that me going over the dangers and such were pointless. Yes, I would remind her daily not to be involved. I think we may have had a bit of a stand off once where I told her that I would never give up on her and she told me it was too late…she had given up on herself.
Anyway, when she started these conversations I would get my laptop and start talking about University and courses she would need to become a lawyer. She had told me on day on of meeting that her farther had wanted her to become a lawyer. She would tell me it was “Long Miss” and stop talking about uni because people like her don’t go uni. I would say… “is it…how come I have a degree then”. And she would half smile.
Pure effort went into this young person. I have tried every single method I could to help her step away. I have walked away from her and gone home and cried because I didn’t know if she would be alive after the weekend. I never told her that. I would just be back on her case Monday like I knew she would be ok.
Then things changed. I could see that she was down. I would even go as far to say …afraid (don’t tell her that). I could tell that she was tired of street life. That she didn’t want to be there. So, we had a conversation. On how she could start to exit a gang. I don’t think she even realised that we were having the conversation. We had a bit of grime playing, sitting in my room on a casual one. She told me that she couldn’t leave because she couldn’t move away. This was true. We talked about police and such for protection…she did not want any of this. Said this was not needed.
So, I told her this. Make yourself unattractive to the gangs. Stop being on road. Stop being about that life. Slowly. Start doing what you are told in school. Don’t get into fights for other people. Be true to who you are not what people want you to be. Focus on where you are going, not where you have been. Then I said this.
I said Annabel, I wish someone had told me when I was your age that I was better than this. I wish someone had recognised that I wanted to leave. I see you.
Them last words led to me starting the #ICE you campaign last year that blew up Twitter. We had a full silent prey going on for young people. But I will talk about that another time.
It was the first time that I knew what I meant when I was trying to reach her. I see you. I see YOU. Not the attitude. Not the bad gal. Not a victim, nor a perpetrator. Just her.
This young lady has turned her life around. I do tell her sometimes how proud I am, but she might get a big head (jokes). I sat with her yesterday and she asked me “Miss, when does it stop being boring”. I looked at her and said, “When does what stop being boring”. She said…” being good”. I smiled.
This young lady made a stand not just against being in a gang, she also made a stand against whet society expected for her. She amazes me every day. She is still feisty. She called me a mug on Monday for.. like.. no reason…and that’s why I adore her…she still has the street in her, she still has respect for the streets. She just isn’t about that no more.
She walks among the same people, in the same area, but with grace…
Like an Angel….