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19 February 2024

Shirley Jackson is the founder and Managing Director of Youth Unity, a not-for-profit organisation that has recently collaborated with the British Racing School.

Youth Unity helps support vulnerable young people and adults affected by group violence (gangs), drugs and other forms of exploitation such as human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and extremism.

Why the collaboration with racing?

I think racing, with its dynamic and multifaceted nature, naturally lends itself to community work, especially with young people. Beyond the enriching induction week at the British Racing School, this project is built on the belief that racing provides a unique platform for fostering personal and professional growth among participants. The dedication to opening pathways to meaningful employment is the driving force behind this initiative.

Throughout the transformative week, participants are exposed to various elements essential for their development. Yet, this journey is just the beginning. Made possible through the support from Gerald Leigh Foundation who fund these placements, we offer a range of courses spanning from 6 to 18 weeks, each serving as a gateway not only to education but also to tangible opportunities with guaranteed work placements.

How does this work prepare participants for the workplace?

The integration of education with hands-on work placements is our strategy for bridging the gap between theory and practice, preparing participants for the challenges and opportunities they’ll encounter in the professional world. This project is not just an introduction, it’s a comprehensive programme designed to empower individuals with the tools they need to thrive in the workforce.

We are enthusiastic about the impact our efforts will have on the lives of those we serve. At Youth Unity, our vision is to create a future where every individual not only dreams but also turns those dreams into tangible, sustainable careers. Racing serves as the catalyst for this transformative process, opening doors and shaping a future of opportunities for the young individuals in our community.

Tell us more about the ethos of Youth Unity

Its core belief revolves around ensuring that every young person is treated fairly and as a unique individual, regardless of factors such as age, gender, race, religion, ability, or background. As an organisation, its primary objective is to facilitate the thriving and realisation of the full potential of young individuals, ensuring they are thoroughly prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in their adult lives. Through collaborative endeavours with diverse stakeholders, Youth Unity CIC strives to diminish vulnerability and safeguard local communities, in line with the Government’s strategy, the 3 Ps: prevent, prepare, and protect.  We focus on improving opportunities for all, especially young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Our overall belief is that by helping to improve the overall health and well-being of an individual they can make better informed choices and decisions.

How do you hope working with the British Racing School can impact your beneficiaries?

By offering hands-on work placements and a range of courses, we envisage empowering our beneficiaries with the practical experience and industry-specific expertise necessary to thrive in the competitive racing and breeding sector. This, in turn, opens doors to sustainable career paths, providing them with a tangible and impactful route toward long-term success.

Beyond the acquisition of technical skills, the collaboration is designed to instil a sense of confidence and resilience in our beneficiaries. Experiencing the challenges and triumphs of the racing industry first-hand can contribute to the development of valuable life skills, such as teamwork, adaptability, and perseverance.

Andrew Braithwaite (British Racing School) and Sarah Whitney (Gerald Leigh Trust)

How can people reading this support you or get involved?

If you’re curious to learn more about the impactful work we’re doing, we warmly invite you to reach out. Simply drop us an email at, and we’d be delighted to share more about our initiatives.

As an organisation, we thrive on collaboration and depend on funding to turn our visionary projects into reality. We’re actively seeking partnerships that will not only bolster our presence in the Horse Industry but, more importantly, help us forge diverse pathways of opportunities for the young people we wholeheartedly support. Many of them hail from some of the most challenged areas, and we believe that by working together, we can extend a welcoming hand to these resilient individuals and open new and exciting possibilities for them in this amazing world. If you’re passionate about making a positive impact and want to join us in this journey of creating inclusive opportunities, let’s connect and explore the many ways we can collaborate for the greater good.

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Shirley brings an unwavering passion for youth to the heart of the organisation. With a background rooted in project management, she skilfully orchestrates the execution of Youth Unity’s initiatives, seamlessly turning concepts into realities. Shirley’s expertise extends beyond project management to the dynamic realm of event coordination, making her a versatile professional with a diverse skill set that significantly enriches our organisational landscape. Her commitment ensures that every program we undertake is not just executed but executed with excellence.

Beyond her operational prowess, Shirley is a linchpin in the overall functioning of Youth Unity. With a remarkable journey spanning over twenty-five years in marketing and branding, working on a corporate landscape, she accumulated a wealth of knowledge that reflects in the success of our endeavours. Shirley’s collaborative spirit has seen her working with esteemed artists, agencies, and non-profit organisations on a global scale, leaving an indelible mark on Youth Unity’s footprint.

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