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United Way Blog

Creative Pathways Program: Annie’s Story

In Scotland, the Creative Pathways initiative, run by the local charity Impact Arts, aims to increase employability skills in young people, help them gain in confidence and earn qualifications. To support the expansion of this initiative, United Way UK partnered with Impact Arts and, with the support of Lenovo, developed the 'Digital Future' program which integrates with the existing initiative and provides further support to young people to increase their digital knowledge and skills, alongside contributing with the necessary infrastructure.

Annie’s story

Like many people around the world, the COVID-19 lockdown severely affected Annie’s mental health and brought about feelings of anxiety and apathy. A 16-year-old girl from West Lothian, Annie lives in her family’s home and is responsible for providing care to an elderly person. She left school in November of 2019 and missed most of her S4. She experienced bullying at school and struggled with anxiety and anger management issues. Since leaving school, Annie spent her time preparing for hairdressing courses at West Lothian College. However, she soon realized that it was not suitable for her, and this left her feeling discouraged about pursuing further training.

What Annie lacked in her life was structure and guidance to protect her from becoming socially isolated. Consequently, she turned to her favorite interests. Although they are many and diverse, Annie is an avid writer and always keen on art. While initially she was not sure what steps to take to pursue her passion, later, thanks to the Creative Pathways program which was recommended to her by an SDS worker, Annie found her creative outlet. The Creative Pathways program helps young adults between the ages of 16 and 26 to enhance their digital knowledge and creative skills. 

At first, Annie had some reservations about the courses offered as she considered herself slower to learn things and described herself as having learning difficulties. She hoped that the Creative Pathways program would be different and that it would be an opportunity for her to “learn more creative skills and use different materials along with learning new techniques and building confidence when talking to people.”

With the enormous support that she received, Annie gradually regained her confidence and began engaging her peers by initiating conversations and partaking in activities with them via videocalls. She courageously took opportunities to openly talk about herself and put her ideas forward. “Nothing is ever as bad as it seems at the start. I thought it would be well scarier, it’s a lot better than I expected,” Annie recalls. 

During this time, Annie also learned how to use the educational technology by completing the daily register and posting art challenges for her colleagues. Among other things, Annie was actively participating in group activities such as group snake drawing and acquiring new creative skills. After a few sessions, she also volunteered for a DJ role and began to take her group’s requests, making playlists for in-between breaks and background music during the art challenges. In addition, Annie also took part in the Health and Wellbeing week by participating in white board group work where she wrote a script and designed a poster to raise awareness on mindfulness and wellbeing. Moreover, Annie also took part in an art project focused on the revival of Scottish Art History.

As the weeks progressed, the young girl was making tremendous advances, passing her SQA units. She decided to take a week off from the sessions to look after her mental health and used the positive coping mechanisms she had acquired throughout to help her. She came back the following week full of enthusiasm and was keen to catch up, enjoying being back in the sessions with her peers and pushing on with her tasks.

Some of Annie’s key achievements included:

  • Worked on creating a compelling CV
  • Practiced mock interviews
  • Learned how to use career search and interview tools
  • Registered with Indeed & My Jobs Scotland and acquired the necessary skills to look for employment opportunities
  • Gained new creative skills
  • Expanded her network and gained confidence

One of Annie’s key takeaways from the sessions was the inspiration she received from her meeting with Megan Smith, a young actor who was invited as a guest speaker in one sessions. It was then that Annie decided that performing arts was something she would definitely pursue.

Annie and Megan exchanged emails to stay in touch should Annie need help deciding what steps to take in order to pursue her ambition of working as a performing artist. The Pastoral Youth Worker helped Annie put together a plan for this career development, and she submitted an application to the New College Lanarkshire for a course in performing arts starting in August of 2021.

Annie has applied for The Larder stage 3 Employability Award as she feels this would be beneficial to keep her in routine and to build her qualifications until her college course begins. She is currently preparing for her first audition with New College Lanarkshire and is practicing recording two different monologues to be submitted in April. The next step will be a Zoom interview for her college course, which she feels confident conducting thanks to her participation in the Creative Pathways program. The Pastoral Youth Worker will meet monthly and stay in touch with Annie via email to support her when and where needed.

United Way UK designs and implements bespoke solutions related to youth employment and education in order to increase opportunities for financial stability and wellbeing among young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. To learn more about United Way UK’s work in support of young people, click here or get in touch at info@unitedway.org.uk.

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