I had the honour recently to speak to the closing celebration for the “LEAD the Change” United Youth pilot.  This was the combined group that formed out of the closure of Public Achievement and Achieve Enterprises, and was part of the Northern Ireland Executive’s United Youth pilot as part of its Together Building a United Community initiative.

I addressed the group with a heady mixture of pride and anger.  Pride at what these young people had accomplished in just a few weeks both collectively and individually.  Anger that the experience was too short and that no real evaluation has been done of the pilots, and that another phase of United Youth will be rolled out with no real understanding of the learning from the pilot – but more of this in another post.

As this film by my talented former colleague Michael MacBroom illustrates, individuals were profoundly changed by the experience of these projects in ways which I hope will help them to lead more successful lives in spite of all the obstacles that have been put in their way.  Most have had a terrible experience of formal education which didn’t adapt to their learning styles and needs, and left them feeling they were stupid, worthless and often broken.  These experiences have been compounded by life on benefits, and by the endless and fruitless search for employment in which youth unemployment remains stubbornly above 20% in spite of an overall reduction in the unemployment statistics in recent months.

Their rapid progress was down to the dedication and skills of my former colleagues who supported, nurtured and challenged each person – helping them to find a bespoke path to a more fulfilling existence.

When I was preparing for the event, one quote stood out for me.  The quote from Jack Kerouac that was often cited by the late Steve Jobs.  “Here’s to the Crazy Ones”

“Here’s to the crazy ones.  The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers. the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently.  They’re not fond of the rules and have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.  About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.  Because they change things, they push the human race forward.  And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Jack Kerouac

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