Lime interview - Community & Support
Serious About Youth
Lifelong friends Rommell Wallace and Paul Matthews launched SAY in 2003 with the intention of inspiring young people to reach their full potential in life.
Combining Rommell’s love for poetry and Hip-Hop and Paul’s engineering background they have been able to reach out to many young people around London through interactive and innovative workshops.
TELL ME, WHAT IS SAY ABOUT?
SAY stands for Serious About Youth and we’re a youth social enterprise, our aim is to try and engage young people as much as possible, to inspire them and to help them to develop their life skills, develop their confidence, their self belief and the kind of attitude they need to have to progress positively in life.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START SAY?
I came into contact with a charity called LEAP and I actually went there as a client and then I ended up working there. LEAPs main ethos is to develop people to be able to get back into work. So I’ve experienced the impact of workshops on people that help them believe in themselves more and develop their skills to achieve whatever their goal is. Outside of work I’m involved in poetry and I really love Hip-Hop and rap music. I think a lot of young people are recognising now that rap is actually a form of poetry, so I kinda wanted to combine the two things together. Me and my friend Paul went to school together, we were just talking about it one day and we decided to use our skills and experiences to try and start something.
ONE OF YOUR RECENT INITIATIVES WAS THE WESTMINSTER SPORTS, ARTS AND CULTURAL CHALLENGE (WSACC). HOW DID THAT GO?
We had two competitions running at the same time, the WSACC was specifically for the borough of Westminster. We had the London wide version of it called CREATE SPORT and the aim of that was for students to design stadiums in the theme of the Olympics. They had to talk about the sustainability of the stadium so that was really good. We had the final on the 27th of June and it was a success!
YOU ALSO HAVE THE SAY READING CHALLENGE. CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THAT?
That’s a new initiative which is to raise funds for the schools through sponsorship. We recognise the importance of literacy and so that’s something we’re starting to do in primary schools as well as high schools. The aim is that we encourage young people to read as many books as they can, they’ve got to read up to 3 books and write a poetical summary of it. We will then deliver some workshops to help to develop their communication skills and bring in a music artist to emphasise the importance of words.
YOU USE POSITIVE ROLE MODELS TO ENGAGE WITH YOUNG PEOPLE. HOW EFEFECTIVE DO YOU THINK THAT HAS BEEN SO FAR?
I think it’s been very effective. Growing up you have people that you look up to , that you connect with and that you would like to emulate yourself and I think young people really appreciate when people have taken the time out to come and do something to make a positive impact in their life. We try to get the music artists to come in who are talking from a positive angle regardless of whatever music they may make sometimes, when they come in they are talking about the importance of developing your vocabulary, developing your literacy and striving for your goals.
WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL?
My mum is very hard working so she’s always had that very committed work ethic, my dad is quite a strong character so again there’s that aspect of that strength and inspired me in some ways as far as not feeling like I always have to follow that 9-5 normal system that there are other ways to develop yourself to be successful. I like Obama a lot, I love hip hop so I like Jay-Z, I respect what he’s done in music as well as the business side of things. My first favourite rapper was Ice Cube and if we’re talking about modern day, I like Drake a lot. I like his openness as well as his lyrics. Other than that there’s probably many.
WHAT FUTURE PROJECTS CAN WE EXPECT FROM SAY?
One of the main projects we will be promoting is the SAY Reading Challenge. Black History month workshops are coming up in October and other than that the general promotion of our workshops.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT THE CARIBBEAN?
Love the heritage, love the fact I’m from there. I’m very proud of that, my background is Jamaican. I’m proud of the fact that Jamaica had such a big impact on the world for such a small island but as for the Caribbean generally I love the culture, the weather, love the food, love the scenery. I love everything about it!
WHAT VALUES HAVE YOU TAKEN FROM YOUR CARIBBEAN ROOTS?
The importance of education and hard work and education, the importance of family cause I thinks it’s something that’s got lost, some times in the UK you can get disconnected. In the Caribbean there’s a strong value of the extended family. Thankfully my family still got that. Also the community spirit and through SAY I guess I’m still trying to do that with the young people.
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