At-risk youth find mentors in Knights players

The nib Newcastle Knights are pleased to launch The Kick Off program, an initiative which identifies young people who are at risk of long-term involvement with the criminal justice system and links them with a professional sportsperson as a mentor.

Knights players Shaun Kenny-Dowall, James Gavet, Connor Watson and Daniel Saifiti are involved as mentors, providing guidance and support to the young person to reduce offending behaviour and promote pro-social attitudes.

The program is a collaborative effort between the Knights, the nib foundation, NSW Children’s Court, NSW Juvenile Justice, Allambi Youth Services and The Salvation Army Employment Plus and financially supported by the nib foundation who have made an investment of $10,000.

Knights CEO, Mr Phillip Gardner, said the Club is proud of the players for making a real impact to youth in the Hunter.

“While the program centres around addressing risk factors contributing to a young person’s antisocial behaviours, it also aims to develop a pathway for our players into the youth or caseworker industry post-sporting career, through the provision of training and development opportunities,” Mr Gardner said.

“This program that we are running is specifically looking after the health of young people. Those people most at risk of re-offending. If we can make a difference to their mental and physical health, we’re making a huge impact on the community.”

The idea was hatched at a meeting last year between nib Managing Director, Mark Fitzgibbon, Broadmeadow Children’s Court Magistrate, Nell Skinner and the Knights Wellbeing and Education Officer, Dean Noonan who identified the need for greater remedial involvement for youth at risk of reoffending.

“It all started when the local Children’s Court Magistrate raised the idea of connecting young repeat offenders with professional sporting players, whose opinions they’re more likely to listen to. Given our association with the Knights as their principal partner the opportunity was quite obvious,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“The idea is that this kind of intervention might help these young persons to reach their potential through positive mentorship and ultimately, keep them out of jail.”    

While the program centres around addressing factors contributing to the young person’s antisocial behaviours, it also aims to develop a pathway for the mentors into the youth/casework industry post their sporting careers, through the provision and of training and development opportunities.

The Kick Off program is designed for 15-18-year-old’s at risk of long-term involvement in the criminal justice system, who have a current supervised court order for a period of at least six months or are under the care of Allambi Youth Services.

The program will allow the players to mentor the young persons for a one-year period.

Together we can make a difference that will lead to better life outcomes.