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I AM IN ME CIC

Sophie O'Sullivan, about 7 months ago

Founded by Sasha Gay Smith in 2017, I AM IN ME CIC provides tailored personal development and employability support to disadvantaged young people, including ex-offenders and those at risk of offending.

The focus of the organisation is to build an individual's resilience, self-discipline and emotional intelligence. This is with the view of overcoming social, educational and economic barriers and empowering young people.

We cannot choose our starts, but we can choose how we finish.

-Sasha Gay Smith, Founder, I AM IN ME CIC

Sasha sits on the Croydon Youth Offending Team as a panel leader and works within the prison estate to support young people who are due to be released. She also works in partnership with Battersea Community Centre to help young people at risk of offending.

For Sasha, the first few weeks on release are crucial. Having an income and a home is key in order to achieve a positive outcome.

The support service offered is bespoke to the young person's needs. One pathway works towards employment through building a CV, disclosure and skills training, where the young person can gain a level two accredited qualification in employability.

Alternatively, candidates are guided through an enterprise and business start-up scheme. This looks at the initial business idea, viability of the concept, practicality, industry knowledge, finances, tax break down and goal setting.

Working in this way means that the young person has a chance to evaluate what route on release is best for them at that time. For example, they may explore whether they want to revisit starting a business at a later stage after a period of saving capital in a part time job.

I AM IN ME refer work-ready young people to employers with opportunities. More often than not these young people have no role models within their families or wider communities and have endured complex trauma. Therefore, gaining a job on release is a highly significant achievement. They invite employers to be empathetic and to acknowledge the power of employment in its ability to transform lives.

The pandemic has shown us that it doesn't matter who we are, we are all in the same boat. Everyone has to be locked in. Hopefully this experience will increase our empathy and awareness towards young people from our prisons.

-Sasha Gay Smith, Founder, I AM IN ME CIC

One young person Sasha mentored went onto progress within social services after his release and has been employed by the local authority for 4 years. Prior to this, he was excluded from mainstream secondary school and moved around category A prisons.

He also volunteers and goes into prisons to guide young people who were once in his shoes. He has recently gone part time in his job to focus on building his own business and is under Sasha's mentorship as a client. This time around, he pays for the service and this payment goes into a pot that funds two sessions for young ex-offenders who were once in his place.

Through I AM IN ME, he has completely turned his life around and is giving back to others in need. Sasha tells us that he is an exceptional young man, an example of dedication, determination, resilience and what a made up mind with support can achieve.

After working with I AM IN ME, another beneficiary successfully went into employment within the waste industry, gaining additional qualifications and reconnecting with family.

The support has made a big impact in my life, to be able to show my children, that regardless of the mistakes you make there are people that actually care and want to help and that not everyone is out there to see you fail. The support has meant so much to me, it has been a lifeline to know that you don't get judged by your past but what you want to achieve in the future.

-AJ, participant, I AM IN ME CIC

Sasha is building a roster of professionals in various sectors to mentor the young people I AM IN ME supports. If you are based in Wandsworth or Lambeth and would like to support this initiative, please do get in touch via our directory.

When you offer a job and have faith in a young man released from prison, you will change the trajectory of his life and the trajectory of his children's life. The vision is to create long-lasting generational change. This is powerful.

-Sasha Gay Smith, Founder, I AM IN ME CIC