Monday, June 24, 2024

Former gang member gives eye-opening talk to South Essex College students

Street Gang

STUDENTS at South Essex College’s Thurrock Campus benefitted from an eye-opening talk from a reformed gang member.

Junior Smart set up the SOS Gangs Project in 2006 after being released from prison, and now spends his time educating young people about the harsh realities of gang culture.

The Thurrock Campus Auditorium audience heard first-hand accounts of gang life and how it is far from glamorous. The session also dispelled the myths of gangs and raised awareness of the help available to those affected.

Junior spoke about his regular upbringing and how things took a turn for the worse when he fell into the wrong crowd and got involved with gangs.

In 2006 he was released from prison after serving a 12 year sentence and set up the SOS Project to offer support for young people caught up in the vicious circle of gangs and weapon crime.

Despite his chequered past, Junior has since turned his life around and now has a first class BA (Hons) degree in Youth Work and is in the final stages of completing an MA in Youth Crime and Justice.

Junior said education was the key to combating gang culture.

He said: “I have lived and experienced the gang life and it’s not nice. Working with young people to make them aware of the realities of this culture is the best way to fight it. Everyone is in control of their destiny, not somebody else. I want to use my experiences to educate others to ensure they don’t have to go through what I did.”

Junior was joined by another reformed gang member Daisy Orchard who spoke about how she almost lost her life because of her involvement with gangs.

Katherine Ashdown, the College’s Enrichment Associate, said the talk was very powerful.

She said: “This talk was a fine example of how the College takes a proactive approach to address important issues to educate students. The event was a huge success and opened everyone’s eyes to the harsh reality of gang culture and the dangers associated with it.”

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