With singing, dancing, gaming, painting, various sports – and plenty more besides – The Way Youth Zone in Wolverhampton was a hub of lively activity for its second birthday party on Saturday.
The Way’s story began in 2012, championed by Steve Morgan and the result of a partnership between the Steve Morgan Foundation, Wolverhampton City Council, other local business people and the Queen’s Trust and St James’ Place Foundation.
The facility opened its doors offering a range of activities in 2016 and has since been used by thousands of young people, with the Steve Morgan Foundation having now provided £2.4million courtesy of a capital grant towards the building costs and, since then, a mentoring programme and Smiley Bus.
Carla Priddon, Chief Executive of The Way, explains more.
“We now have over 3,000 members aged between eight and 19, or over 25 with a disability, and over 1,000 visits per week,” says Carla.
“Steve Morgan was instrumental in us being built in the first place and getting support from many others within the community of Wolverhampton.
“Most recently, the generous support of Steve and The Steve Morgan Foundation has enabled us to begin a mentoring project which started in November and already has 43 young people being mentored weekly by volunteer mentors.
“All the mentees have personalised goals and we are already having great feedback about the difference mentoring is making for the young people.
“The Steve Morgan Foundation have also pledged some further capital support to The Way, and as part of this, we have recently received a 17-seater Smiley Bus.
“This is a wonderful resource for us which will enable young people to access The Way who otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach us through our Outreach programme, and also enable our existing and future members to have experiences and opportunities outside of Wolverhampton which they may not otherwise be able to have.
“As part of the capital fund, the young people’s forum had a consultation with other young people and presented to The Way Board, including Vincent Fairclough, as representative of the Steve Morgan Foundation, things they would love to have at The Way.
“With thanks to the Foundation, we have been able to quickly implement their requests for a big screen with SKY TV to watch films and programmes as points for discussion, and also as a home away from home.
“We have also transformed an empty room into ‘The Den’. This is a relaxed room with arcade games and space to ‘chill-out’ where young people can also do targeted project work with youth workers. We also have plans to re-design our canteen and the arts room – so watch this space!”
The new ‘Den’, situated next to the mentoring room, was officially opened as part of the second birthday celebrations on Saturday.
Attendance on the day included two Wolverhampton MP’s – Emma Reynolds and Pat McFadden – the City’s Deputy Mayor and Mayoress, and The Way Chairman, John Gough.
John said: “It was great to be here at The Way’s second birthday and to see so many young people having such a good time.
“The facility has gone from strength to strength over the last two years and there is a great set of people involved with the organisation, along with, most importantly, a fantastic group of young people making really good use of what is on offer, having fun and developing their talents.
“It is busy here every night, and now the young people have enjoyed a really successful second birthday party, in the company of the Deputy Mayor and two Members of Parliament.
“It is a really important facility for Wolverhampton and we are excited for the future.”