Inspirational youth worker leaves lasting legacy
Former Actes youth worker Nathan James is a prime example of how young people can improve their lives for the better, with the right support. Now a project manager for housing group Thirteen, the former Pride of Britain Young Achiever has left a lasting legacy at Actes having positively influenced the lives of over 10000 young people while heading up some of the organisation’s most successful projects.
Nathan made the conscious decision to turn his life around after a spell in prison made him see the error of his ways. After being given the opportunity to volunteer in the community and embarking on the The Prince’s Trust Team programme to develop his mentoring skills while on day release, he decided he wanted to use his experiences to help young people, so began volunteering with Actes, then the West Middlesbrough Neighbourhood Trust.
“Where I grew up in an area of Leeds, crime was a way of life, but my time in prison made me realise everyone has other choices. I wanted to use my experiences as a tearaway teen to help young people in need of support and guidance and in danger of falling into a cycle of crime, to make them understand their responsibilities and to make them see that wrong choices don’t have to determine the rest of their lives,” said Nathan.
Upon release from prison Nathan started working as Prince’s Trust assistant team leader at Cleveland Fire Service – running courses to help prepare disadvantaged young people for work. He joined Actes full-time in 2009 becoming youth development manager for the Just 4 Youth project designed to help prepare young people for the world of work.
He went on to develop and lead on projects including Beat the Stereotype and the regional Youth Employment & Debt Awareness (YEDA) initiative in partnership with One NorthEast, where he engaged with over 3400 young people during the course of the project.
Most recently he took a lead role in the bid process for the Big Lottery Funded Know Your Money, Keep the Change (KYM) designed to give young people aged 16 – 24 financial confidence through access to information, advice and guidance, training, employment support, IT facilities and accredited training. As Team Leader for KYM Nathan became an early adopter of social media, using social platforms to consult with 580 young people across Teesside. The project was hugely successful and, winning two national awards for best youth project.
His success with KYM led him to being promoted to project manager which meant transferring to Thirteen group, who were leads for the project, last May. With KYM now winding down he is playing a more strategic role within Thirteen and is currently developing a pilot project to help young people to secure tenancies in line with the forthcoming restrictions around claiming housing benefit due to be introduced next year.
Despite the change in direction, Nathan still finds the time to share his experiences with young people, including lecturing at Teesside University.
He said: “I’m enjoying the challenge of the more strategic role and the potential to influence change, however I always look for opportunities to inspire young people and offer advice and guidance to help them take the correct steps in life. I’ll look for any opportunity to speak to practitioners and young people to show them it’s never too late to change their lives for the better.”