A passionate advocate for young people, Zenna Hopson is the new CEO of youth charity Active Communities Network (ACN). Here she explains the importance of the Take the Reins Programme – to both the participants and the sport.
A lifelong interest in helping young people
I started my career working as a residential social worker some 35 years ago and have been involved in organisations working with young people ever since. I have set up two youth charities, as well as working in the commercial and public sectors. I joined ACN as a Trustee and was blown away by the work the charity does; when the founding CEO Gary Stannett decided to move on I put my hat into the ring and was delighted to be the successful applicant.
ACN is a national organisation covering seven areas, however we work locally in deprived communities, bringing multi-sports sessions to the doorsteps of young people in troubled communities. Using sport, we build relationships and support young people through personal development and accredited training, ultimately leading to opportunities and employment. At its heart, ACN uses sport to engage young people and provides them with opportunities to break the cycle of poverty.
Take the Reins has offered something new
I have LOVED getting to know the Take The Reins (TTR) programme, as so many of the young people ACN work with have never left their estates let alone seen a stable yard or been to the races. TTR has a focus on employment and expanding the talent pool for the industry; it is also able to motivate and inspire young people who might not end up working in racing. Expanding young peoples’ horizons and exposing them to new opportunities is central to what ACN does and working with the racing industry through the inspirational TTR steering committee has been a really great experience.
Last week’s programme showcase event at the St Leger meeting was a great opportunity to share the work that has been achieved in just over a year, not least that 2,842 young people have taken part, and 21 grassroots organisations have supported TTR. There were 37 schools involved and 146 young people achieved accredited qualifications through the programme and are now more confident and ready for the world of work.
The event not only celebrated the success of the pilot but signalled the intention to develop the programme roots in the racing industry and expand and grow what has been started.
TTR also gave me the opportunity to attend Ladies’ Day at Doncaster, and as a racing-going novice I was very impressed – the atmosphere was wonderful, the hats outstanding and the racing was great, not least because my only flutter of day was a winner!