Shawdon, 23, inspires ambition in Archway estate’s youngsters

Shawdon Smith (fourth from right) delivering gifts to residents on the Elthorne Estate with local yo

Shawdon Smith (fourth from right) delivering gifts to residents on the Elthorne Estate with local youths - Credit: Archant

A young enterpreneur from the Elthorne Estate hopes his youth academy will “spark ambition” among children in the area, writes Victoria Ibitoye.

Shawdon Smith, 23, plans to set up Ambitious Academy, a youth club that will give children the skillset and confidence to pursue their career goals.

He says: “What we want to do with Ambitious Academy is not just an everyday youth club. What we’re trying to provide is core certificate-based modules where children can come in and learn a skill.

“When I was young I never understood what I wanted to do or wanted to be. I asked my mum the other day if she had ever heard me say what I wanted to do and she couldn’t answer me.

“A lot of these kids, especially those that don’t have parents who encourage them, have no role models. What I want to do is show them that with the right guidance and skillset they can meet their goals.”

Shawdon first realised that he could have an impact on the lives of children on his Archway estate after he completed university.

“I’ve lived that life and I understand it. I’m from a Christian-based family so when they would see me out with a load of boys they would always encourage me to stay off the streets.

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“The kids have seen me go through university and they have a level of respect and understanding for me. I realised then that I had an opportunity to create a big difference in their lives.

“There’s a lot of negative press in the media about Islington. The way I see it, these young children often turn to crime because it seems like there’s no alternative.

“What my team and I are trying to instil is a sense of positive peer pressure.

“The youth club is a strong passion of mine and I feel like there’s a lot of weight on my shoulders because if I don’t fight for the children to get a youth club, I’ve let them down and I’ve let myself down.”

Shawdon credits an internship at City and Islington College, which he completed while at sixth form, as being the main turning point in his life.

“It was like a clicking moment in my head. I realised that I could dress smart and speak to professionals and once I realised I could do it I started to do bigger things from there on.

Ambitious Academy is working with London Village Network to bring in professionals from a range of industries to speak to the children on insight days and has created a documentary to show how it plans to help in the area.

Shawdon’s Elthorn Shines for Christmas initiative saw young people from the estate deliver gift hampers to needy residents on Christmas Eve.

“We wanted to prove to the world that the kids that you might look at and see as bad kids from the estate can actually – even without a premises – do something for the area,” says Shawdon.

Last week Islington Council pledged that an extra £500,000 would be spent on mentors with a strong track record of turning vulnerable young lives around.

“I think it’s great what they’re doing. It’s good that they’re funding people that can actually make a difference,” he says.

Shawdon’s projects have so far been voluntary funded.

“This is my full time occupation, I’m not making any money from it.

“It’s a strong passion of mine because I feel like my time with the kids and what can be achieved is worth more than the money.”

In the future Shawdon hopes to roll out his academy to the whole of the borough and believes Ambitious Academy will help bring communities back together.

He plans to focus on creative and trading industries first and also aims to provide counselling and one-to-one mentoring sessions.