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School students from local secondary schools gathered on Tuesday March 22nd at Bannatyne’s Hotel in Hastings to take part in an inspirational programme. It aims to help young people to fulfil their potential and improve their life chances.

Be the Change was developed by LoveLocalJobs.com and humanutopia to help raise 13 and 14-year-olds confidence. It aims to identify and remove barriers to success and focuses on happiness, confidence, hope, relationships and employability.

The students will also engage in several activities with peers and business mentors, which includes a work place visit in the coming months. At the launch event itself, students and business volunteers took part in activities that were led by humanutopia’s founders Carlo Missirian and Graham Moore. Both the founders are former teachers who know the challenges that young people are facing today.

“Our vision is for every young person to have raised hope and confidence, to have the chance to develop life skills and create positive cycles that will prepare them for life. We believe in putting people first, and the Be the Change programme is a perfect vehicle to work in partnership to help young people develop the qualities and qualifications they need for a better future. Working with corporate volunteers and the invaluable support and belief of local businesses and universities adds a further dimension and depth to the engagement and journey the young people will experience,” said the founders.

The programme involves a variety of schools including: ARK Helenswood Academy, ARK William Parker Academy, Robertsbridge Community College, Rye College, St Richard’s Catholic College and The St Leonard’s Academy.

Vanessa Gall, Student Support Manager at Rye College, said: “My students were fully engaged and participated with all the activities which, with some of the students, came as a wonderful surprise to me. The Be the Change team were amazing and connected with all the students on a very personal level. I definitely think this programme will increase self-esteem and raise aspirations.”

Gary Peters, founder of LoveLocalJobs.com, who came up with the idea Be the Change, said: “We believe that Be the Change has the power to dramatically improve lives.  David Cameron said that there are around 25,000 pupils about to start their GCSEs who are at risk of under-achieving or dropping out and that he wants businesses to mentor at risk teenagers. Well, this is exactly what we are doing right here in Hastings in collaboration with local employers, universities and local authorities.”

In months to come, there will be three Be the Change programmes rolling out across East and West Sussex. The Hastings programme is a collaboration between LoveLocalJobs.com and humanutopia. They also have support from Hastings Borough Council, Sussex Learning Network, University of Bright, Heart FM and other local businesses.

Sarah Williams, Director of Sussex Learning Network, said: “The Sussex Learning Network is delighted to be sponsoring the Be the Change programme right across Sussex this year – it’s providing a fantastic opportunity for our educational partners to engage with young people in a really innovative and inspiring way, and we hope to be able to continue to support the programme for years to come.”

Cllr Dawn Poole, Hasting Borough Council’s lead member for regeneration, said: “We are very pleased to support Be the Change. Providing opportunities and enabling young people to develop skills and qualifications they need for better futures is imperative. We look forward to the future success of the scheme and to see aspirations raised in the young people of Hastings.”

Grace Isted is a 25 year old single mum to two girls. After training as an actress at stage school, Grace had her two children and found herself as a single mum living in Rye. Working in a bar and on benefits, Grace felt down and trapped about her life. She knew she wanted more and was capable of more so she started looking at Sussex Coast College Hastings for courses she could enrol onto.

Grace found a Beauty Therapy course which interested her and realised 24+ loans were available to her.

24+ Loans

‘Doing this course has completely changed my life’ says Grace.

‘Applying for the 24+ loan was easy, I came to the college for my interview and the tutor took me straight down to the student services team who were fantastic. They made it clear which part of the forms I had to fill in and which letters and certificates I needed to bring them. It couldn’t have been quicker or easier, thanks to them.’‘The money for the fees was paid straight to the college and I have had help with my childcare too. There is a nursery in the college and I haven’t had to pay towards the costs, which was my biggest worry when enrolling on the course.’‘The college couldn’t do enough to help me find a way, every issue I have had, the college has taken off my hands.’

Grace concluded, ‘I can’t say yet if I have financially benefited from coming back to college, but I can honestly say what it has done for my identity, confidence and self-worth has made it worth every minute. It has given me more than any financial gain, it has given me my life back whilst enabling me to still be a great mum to my girls.’

Grace has a 5 year plan, hoping to continue her Level 3, specialising in skin care, then gain experience for a year before going freelance and opening her own salon.

About 24+ Loans

  • You can apply for a 24+ Advanced Learning Loan to help with the costs of a college or training course if you’re 24 or older.
  • The course must have started on or after 1 August 2013 and be an eligible Level 3 or 4 course, e.g. A-Levels.
  • Loans have to be paid back but repayments don’t start until April 2016 and you won’t have to pay anything back until you earn more than £21,000 a year. The loan doesn’t depend on your income and there are no credit checks.