Rachel Anderson – “Being at Youth Focus changed my career path”

Rachel joined Youth Focus North East while uncertain of her career choices and feeling excluded from further education. Rachel has since returned to college, taken on a range of volunteer roles across the region, and had her first interview for a Youth Worker position. This is Rachel’s story.

I was in Geek Retreat a few years ago and I was talking to my friend about wanting to be in media, and some guy shouted me over and gave me a leaflet – I didn’t think much of it at the time. I was working with Fixers on a video about mental health at the time, and I thought “this isn’t going to last forever”.

It was a Friday morning and I was really bored, so I pretty much went through my bag and found the leaflet and thought “ahhh I’m bored I’ll ring it”. To sum up, I basically joined because I was bored! And that’s how my youth work world began.

So I rang and spoke to staff and was asked if I wanted to come in the next day to meet up and chat about the group. It was a Saturday when I went, which was very confusing because I thought these kind of centres were only open Monday to Friday. I didn’t know much about youth work at the time. I had been with the Phoenix project as a young person and had been going once every 2 weeks to talk about my problems, and having 1-2-1 with support from Connexions but they weren’t youth workers.

The next thing I remember is staff getting in touch about being involved in another Talent Match group which I also joined. I went to meetings for both the Talent Match groups, and then 3 months later we had our first event.

In that period of time I was diagnosed with depression and I’d just quit my course – I was feeling really down. I’d been bullied [mentally tortured] in high school for 3 years, and really struggled at college too. Having friends and youth workers I like, the distraction of the Talent Match event, and the support to go back to college really kind of helped me through this time.

Next, I went on a residential where I remember we played basketball a lot…that was fun! And that’s where I first met Nicola, who is now one of my closest friends. After the residential, my friendship group seemed to just expand because new people were joining and we started meeting outside of the group. Our friendship group joined a new project called Fast Friends at the same time and we’ve been part of helping other people make new friends and feel welcome and supported.

I’ve done a lot more at Youth Focus, but I’m going to now stop telling my life story or we would be here all day! Just one last thing – being at Youth Focus North East changed my career path. I originally wanted to work in media then I realised I had a talent in youth work and I thought “why don’t I just pursue this”. Then I realised how hard it is to get into. But we will see what happens…one day hopefully.

If it wasn’t for these groups, I would only have a couple of friends now, which has made me feel a lot less lonely.