The Teens and Toddlers programme can act as a safe space for boys to show a softer side in a way that they often can’t in other settings. Leon, 14, found expressing himself difficult before the programme, which would sometimes present itself as acting out in class.

“Being in school was difficult. Last year I was doing very bad, getting detentions and truanting a lot. I really struggled with my confidence too,” says Leon.

During the programme, Leon was paired with a child called Ralphie. Alison Lyons is a teacher at the nursery where Leon has been taking part in the Teens and Toddlers programme. She said, “Leon was quiet during the first couple of weeks on the programme. I think he found the nursery environment uncomfortable and lacked confidence.”

“Over the course of the programme, his confidence has just shone. He came back each week with ideas of play activities he could do with Ralphie and the other children. The bond he has made with Ralphie has been wonderful to watch.”

“Some of his teachers came to observe one of the sessions at the nursery and commented on how different he was in our setting compared to theirs,” says Alison.

Becoming a role model in a supportive environment with other young people also facing challenges has helped Leon to grow in confidence.

Leon says, “It feels amazing to be a role model. It makes me feel more mature and more confident about myself. It’s changed me a lot and I think it can change other people.”

“Before the programme, Thursday was just a normal day but now I feel like ‘Yes, it’s Thursday’ and it helps me get out of bed in the morning knowing I have Teens and Toddlers on that day,” says Leon.

“My behaviour has got better. I still get detentions but not as many as before the programme because I’m more aware of other people’s feelings. For example, I don’t like French lessons and I’ve had two teachers that I wasn’t the best behaved for. During the Teens and Toddlers programme, I got a new French teacher and learnt that she has needs herself. It’s made me not misbehave as much in her classes as I’m empathetic towards her feelings. Teachers have mentioned how good I’ve been too,” he says.

We’re all so proud of everything Leon has achieved and we’re excited to see where his path will lead him next.

Watch Leon's story in his own words