Helping to inspire young people to make the right choices in life is a passion for Nathan James.
It is something that was ignited in the former Pride of Britain award winner after he was given the opportunity to turn his own life around.
Now heading up The Prince’s Trust Middlesbrough Team programme, delivered by the Education Training Collective (Etc.), his job will be to motivate young people, helping them discover their ambitions and future direction.
Having completed the course himself 16 years ago, while on day release from prison, he said: “Team was the start to the life I now have.”
Wanting to do for others what the programme helped do for him, he said: “I certainly found my calling.”
The 40-year-old, who is now a dad-of-three, has spent the last 15 years building a career working with youth charities and organisations, giving him the knowledge to better understand the issues young people face and develop the expertise to help tackle them.
Originally from Leeds, Nathan grew up in an area where he said gang violence and the drug culture were rife. Brought up by his grandmother, he explained: “I did try to find work and make my own way.” But in the end, he said, it seemed easier to “follow suit”, falling into a life of crime.
Jailed at 18 for armed robbery and again at 22 for drug dealing, it was while in prison the second time that he first heard of The Prince’s Trust.
Sharing a cell with a heroin addict, and witnessing first-hand the way it destroys lives, he recalled: “I knew within myself I wanted to change, but I didn’t know how.”
The Prince’s Trust Team programme offered the chance to discover his skills, see the positive impact he could be making, and give him the confidence to not fall back into old habits.
“It showed me I was able to have a voice, have a purpose and help people,” he said. “I discovered there is a choice in life.”
Less than a year after being released, Nathan received The Prince’s Trust Young Achiever award, presented by the then HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, Charles and Camilla, at the Pride of Britain Awards in 2010.
Seated among an audience of celebrities he was recognised for the effort he had made to transform his life and, as a youth worker, help others do the same.
Looking back, he described it as one of many “pinch yourself moments”, and there were lots more to come.
For him, perhaps the biggest of them all, was receiving the Bradford South Police Commander’s Award. After all, he said, nothing could be a “bigger reflection of my turnaround” than sitting in that room with 160 police officers.
Now to be appointed The Prince’s Trust Team leader role in Middlesbrough, Nathan described as truly coming full circle.
The 12-week personal development programme is available to those aged 16 to 25 and not currently in education, training or employment. By taking part in a series of activities and challenges, it is a chance to build employability skills, gain work experience, and achieve a qualification.
With the next Middlesbrough course due to start at Breckon Hill Community Centre on Monday (January 16), Team leader Nathan said: “I have experienced it from both sides, both as the young person and the tutor.
“I hope to be able to help as many young people as possible to find something they want to do, to find themselves and their passion.”
To find out more about the programme or to get involved call 07812 011742.
The Etc. delivers Prince’s Trust Team programmes in Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar, Darlington, Bishop Auckland and Catterick. All Teams have start dates in January, for details visit: www.stockton.ac.uk/princes-trust