Hundreds of young people who attended Croydon’s first Youth Congress gave a clear message to the council about how they are, confident, ambitious, and see skills and training for employment as their biggest priority.
Organised by the Croydon Strategic Partnership, the congress brought together young people from every secondary school in the borough, as well as from as a wide variety of clubs, youth groups, and other organisations representing Croydon’s young citizens.
The day-long event included a headline performance from platinum-selling rap collective, So Solid Crew.
Dave Slade, a local student who is peer support officer for the East Youth Forum and Youth Cabinet spoke at the end of the event and thanked those responsible. He said: “Youth Congress was amazing, it was so great to see such a large diverse group of young people all striving to deliver something to Croydon. I will definitely be pushing for Youth Congress 2018 to happen and it will be lovely to see young people choosing what they want to happen in Croydon again.”
As well as jobs and skills, the congress also flagged up as key issues improved safety and the need to better address the needs of young people facing mental health problems.
“All of Croydon’s leaders are focused on the outcomes of this event. We need to be led by young people and we need to understand their hopes and dreams.”
“As a council we’re determined to see that Croydon’s continued economic growth provides benefits for the whole community, particularly our youth population, which is London’s largest.
“This day was a fantastic success, particularly because it made it very clear to us that aside from making Croydon a safe place, the number one priority for those present was ensuring they have jobs and a stable income once they leave education.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
The council also launched a new ‘Choose Your Future’ campaign at the congress designed to encourage young people to be the best they can be and make positive choices about their lives.
Amongst those who spoke at the event was Vanessa Sam, a ten-year-old professional motivational speaker from Croydon, who received a standing ovation for her truly inspirational and confident address to the packed room. Delegates were moved by her impassioned presentation focused on gratitude, opening up to those around you, believing in yourself, and loving life.
Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe was on the final discussion panel. He said: “Today has been about positivity and people making the best of themselves they possibly can. Success for everyone involved will be about coming back here in a year’s time and seeing how much of a tangible difference has been made.”
A recorded video message was also played from Met Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, who invited a young person from Croydon to shadow her on duty on the streets of the capital as part of the next youth takeover day.
One of So Solid Crew’s leading members, Ashley Walters (AKA Asher D) was also on the panel as the congress discussed the changes that might be needed to better meet the needs of young people in the borough.
He explained how his own life had taken many different directions, including time in prison, before he found his current career in music, TV and films. He added: “I know it’s not always easy to get support from councils and large organisations, but it’s massively important they do think about the needs of tomorrow’s future leaders. That’s why I really support events like this and want to see them make a difference.”
The council has pledged to work on all of the issues raised at the event, but will give particular attention to how changes and improvements can be made with regards the top three concerns.