Junior Smart, founder of the SOS Gangs Project in partnership with St Giles Trust, visited Newton Abbot College on 6 July, to speak to students about the dangers of exploitation and involvement in crime and how to make good life decisions.
The visit, organised in conjunction South Devon and Dartmoor Community Safety Partnership, saw students in Years 9 and 10 meet with Mr Smart in an interactive session that addressed his experiences of serious crime, his time in prison and his motivations behind setting up and leading the SOS Project. He also took time to highlight some of the myths surrounding weapons, gangs and crime, helping equip students with the tools to reduce the risk of becoming involved with negative peer pressure and gang involvement.
The session was received incredibly positively, with Year 9 student, Harry Vaughan, commenting: “I learnt a lot from the session with Junior; it shocked me that drug involvement is happening everywhere, even in Devon. The session taught me not to get caught up in the moment and do things you will instantly regret.”
Chair of South Devon and Dartmoor Community Safety Partnership, Rebecca Hewitt, said: “Our priority is to safeguard young people in our community and we are delighted to bring Junior to share his knowledge to help our children to keep themselves safe.”
Junior Smart added: “I made some big mistakes and was sent to prison for twelve years for drug related offences. Being in custody turned my life around. My aim is to save as many lives as possible. SOS has been running for twelve years and nothing bothers me more than young people making wrong decisions. The young people at Newton Abbot College are incredibly bright. The sessions I am running are to gauge where they are at and to mystify and deglamourise crime. I hope that my experiences will benefit them so they can think wisely.”