Stockton Riverside College Team, Community Impact award winners

Ten unemployed and under-confident young people from Middlesbrough made a Dragons’ Den style pitch to UK Steel Enterprise hoping to secure funds for a community-based project that would benefit people with autism and Asperger’s.

The young people, aged 18-23, were participating in Team, a personal development programme from The Prince’s Trust, that builds the confidence and employability skills of unemployed young people.

Marcus Nicholas, one of the Team members, said: “MAIN (Multi Agency Inclusive Network) is a charity that helps people with disabilities, particularly autism, and had been supported by a Prince’s Trust Team a year before us. They’d done some art installations for it, but soon afterwards the lease on its premises was revoked and MAIN had a month to find a new home.

“They couldn’t take the murals with them and although they wanted them redone, they had been defrauded of £10,000, so couldn’t afford to hire an artist.

“We wanted to put things right, especially after we met some of the people that use MAIN, but we needed funding. So we put together this presentation and practiced, and, after pitching to UK Steel Enterprise, we were awarded £1,250.”

Together with £500 from MAIN, the group bought the materials they needed and started re-creating the murals.

Connor Lasenby, one of the Team members, said: “I like art, so I painted the jungle animals and set them against a night and day background to give a greater contrast.”

Adam Bratt said: “After I saw the pictures of the work completed previously I thought that creating a night and day theme in the mural would look really good. I helped design and paint it.”

Marcus Nicholas said: “We also built accessible raised flower beds from recycled scaffolding boards, which was really hard work because we had to manually take 18 tonnes of soil from a pile at the front of the building to fill each flower bed. 

“I’d never really felt I’d achieved anything until we did this project – but this made me feel proud; we all did.”

Through sheer grit and determination, these young people transformed MAIN’s new premises into a truly special place.

Helen Jaques, a staff member from MAIN, said: “The work these young people did has not only made our service users have a more pleasurable experience when accessing our facilities, but it has had a significant impact on generating more business for MAIN.”

All 10 members of the Team are now either volunteering, or in training, education, or employment.