Hackney volunteer who helps youths avoid life of crime is nominated for young person of the year award

Ezekiel Koleosho, 20, has eben nominated for a YOPEY award

Ezekiel Koleosho, 20, has eben nominated for a YOPEY award - Credit: Archant

Growing up, Ezekiel Koleosho could see how easy it was for youngsters where he lived to be drawn into the crime and gang culture.

“For some people it was their job, but I saw that it was possible not to behave like that,” said the 20-year-old.

With a supportive mother, and a drive to succeed in dance and choreography, he steered clear of a life of crime – and the Hackney resident is now an inspiration to other youngsters of a similar age through his work with Islington charity Spark Inside, which provides coaching for offenders aged 15 to 25.

The former Islington Green pupil who had been involved with Spark Inside since it began in 2011, is now chairman of its youth advisory board and is training to be a life coach.

Now – after the Caledonian Road charity nominated him – Ezekiel, who lives in Shepherdess Walk, Hoxton is in the running for a prestigious John Lewis Young People of the Year (YOPEY) award which is backed by the Prime Minister David Cameron and recognises unsung youngsters from across the capital.

Programme manager Lola Fayemi, who nominated Ezekiel, said: “He has been such an active, reliable and dependable contributor with a wise head on his shoulders. I wish I had a dozen Ezekiels.

“He has a strong character and grew up in an area with a lot of crime. He is street wise, respectful and open-minded and wanted to channel the frustration he felt about some of the chaos that was going on around him.

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“At a time when there are so many negative portrayals of young black men in the media, Ezekiel is living proof that there are other paths for young black men to take.

“Not only is he committed to progressing in his own life but he is contributing to the progression of his peers.”

Growing up, Ezekiel was regularly exposed to street robberies. He could see many young men whose lives were blighted and got involved with Only Connect, which empowers ex-offenders and youths at risk of offending to shape their own futures.

While there, he saw a presentation by Spark Inside and was impressed by its approach to crime-involved young people, especially through life coaching.

Speaking about his approach to mentoring, he said: “We don¹t ever speak about ourselves but talk to the coachee and find out what they want to talk about, what they have done, what they are doing to change their life and then we set an objective to achieve.

³It is important that we are not judgemental. For my age group, judging is a big thing and some people take it in a bad way. We let them to do it their own way and in their own time,² he said.

Ezekiel also works as an apprentice automotive engineer and is still pursuing a career in dance and choreography, recently winning a Black Entertainment, Film, Fashion, Television and Arts (BEFFTA) award for dance choreography.

Anybody between the ages of 10 and 25, who gives to others either through caring for family members, fundraising for charity or volunteering, and lives, works or studies in the capital, can be nominated for a YOPEY award. There is a top prize of £1,000.

To nominate visit yopey.org, or write to Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road, Stradishall, Newmarket CB8 8YN, enclosing an SAE.