Magistrate says Kick Off program ‘will change lives’

Using sport as an avenue to change lives.

It’s powerful stuff.

But that’s what the Newcastle Knights, nib foundation, NSW Children’s Court, NSW Juvenile Justice, Allambi Youth Services and The Salvation Army Employment Plus are doing through the Kick Off program.

Children’s court magistrate, Nell Skinner is seeing it first-hand.

The program is an initiative which identifies young people who are at risk of long-term involvement with the criminal justice system and links them with a Knights player as a mentor.

It’s designed for 15-18-year-old’s who have a current supervised court order for a period of at least six months or are under the care of Allambi Youth Services.

Three Knights first graders are currently involved in the program with Connor Watson, James Gavet and Shaun Kenny-Dowall acting as mentors.

Gavet is mentoring a teen named Tyler who is flourishing.

It is the changes Skinner has witnessed in Tyler that fills her with confidence that the program will be a success.

“Certainly, with Tyler, that’s the easiest example, that’s exceeded my expectations,” Skinner told newcastleknights.com.au.

“We’ve been able to see how much the players are putting in and how committed they are. It really relies on finding the right kid.

“There will be some ups and downs and that exceeds my expectations. It is doing what (Knights welfare officer) Dean (Noonan) wanted it to do with players having a relationship. It’s not about turning up and smiles and photos, they are there for the kid.

“They meet up for lunch and text them and that shows the players are committed. They are offering the kids something they aren’t going to get anywhere else and that will change lives. Someone believes in them and is taking time to spend with them and offer them support. It’s amazing.”

The players provide 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.