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Who’s who: Shawdon Smith is Elthorne Estate mentor on a mission to raise young people’s aspirations

PUBLISHED: 11:29 30 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:23 30 October 2018

Shawdon Smith from Ambitious Academy outside St John's community centre. Picture: Ambitious Academy

Shawdon Smith from Ambitious Academy outside St John's community centre. Picture: Ambitious Academy

Archant

An Archway mentor uses creative projects to instil morals and nurture young people from his community.

Shawdon Smith from Ambitious Academy outside St John's community centre. Picture: Ambitious AcademyShawdon Smith from Ambitious Academy outside St John's community centre. Picture: Ambitious Academy

Shawdon Smith, 26, runs Ambitous Academy, a social enterprise offering alternative education opportunities and mentoring to young people living in and around the Elthorne Estate, where he grew up.

Shawdon studied at Highbury Grove School, then did a marketing and advertising degree at Hertfordshire University, before returning to N19 to co-found the academy with his business partner Philip Stasopoullos five years ago.

“The main thing is to get young people off the streets,” said Shawdon. “It’s about pushing them into something constructive and helping people from a deprived area.

Shawdon SmithShawdon Smith

“We are trying to focus people and find a solution.

“Each and every day when we do projects people’s aspirations are raised, it’s about finding out what young people want to do with their life.”

His most recent endeavour, a short film called Don’t Get Drawn Out, premiered at Regent’s Street Cinema and more than two million people have watched it on Youtube since August.

Shawdon Smith and some of the kids who starred in Drawn Out. Picture: Amitious AcademyShawdon Smith and some of the kids who starred in Drawn Out. Picture: Amitious Academy

It starred young people from the estate, alongside headline names like Ashley Walters, in a movie with a compelling plot and moral message.

“We’re in the process of planning a second Drawn Out,” he said. “And we’ll be working with Ashley Walters again.

“I’m very proud of what our young people have achieved so far and we’re trying to push out more strong films made by young people to help young people.”

Drawn Out was backed by Arsenal, Fully Focused film productions and Elthorne Pride.

Shawdon added: “If you had youth clubs with studios and creative facilities in every borough, where young people can express themselves and learn, there would be a big reduction in crime.”

“We also need a youth force from my age group, who have been in scenarios young people can relate to, providing education.

“They take it from me because I come their area – I understand their struggles.

“I went to Highbury Grove at a time when it wasn’t the best school.

“The people in my year either became an entrepreneur or a murderer – but I’ve heard it’s changed a lot since then.”

Shawdon said the National Lottery Fund has given more than a million pounds to improve facilities on his estate, and he sits on a board which helps decide how this should be spent.

“Islington is always home, he said. “I’ve lived here my whole life and estate I come from has changed for the better but it’s still a very deprived area.

“There’s lovely areas in Islington, like Angel, but there is also the flip side of that next door where people are living in poverty.

“But I do believe Isilngton is changing for the better.”

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