Today I hosted a meeting at the Town Hall about changing perceptions of young people.
In the aftermath of last year's riots, I visited schools and colleges throughout my constituency to talk about what happened and what should be done to stop it happening again. Many of the young people I spoke to were angry about talk of feral teenagers in the media, which they felt demonised their whole generation.
In discussion with some of them, I agreed to help set up a group that would meet once a month to do some community work with the aim of changing perceptions of young people - and changing Croydon for the better in the process. Over a hundred young people aged 15-21 have expressed an interest to date and over 50 attended the first meeting today.
They chose a name for the group - Project Change - and they identified three projects they want to start with:
- brightening up the part of London Road affected by the riots;
- visiting housebound elderly people to help them with shopping or gardening or just keep them company; and
- running a summer camp for Year 7-9 students to keep them off the streets.
They will now be recruiting more people from their schools and I agreed to visit schools in Croydon North and Croydon South and to liaise with the necessary agencies to get the projects underway.
The people in the room today were from different schools, different faiths, different ethnic backgrounds. They are the future of our town and if you had been there you would be feeling significantly more optimistic about that future.