‘I was expelled for carrying a knife...now I’ve turned my life around and help others in Hackney’

Kenny Ladipo. Picture: Polly Hancock

Kenny Ladipo. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Kenny Ladipo turned his own life around – but more must be done to ensure other kids aren’t left out as Hackney changes, he tells the Gazette.

Kenny Ladipo at Hackney CVS

Kenny Ladipo at Hackney CVS - Credit: Archant

“Hackney is home,” says 22-year-old Kenny Ladipo. He’s lived on the Homerton Estate since he was two.

He’s witnessed a lot of change in the area and sees its ups and downs. “The gentrification is a good thing, but young people in the borough are not being included.

“I want to see policies that help young people get involved in the new economy, through schools doing more to engage them and the police doing more to work with the community.”

Kenny’s changed, too. Expelled from school at 13 for carrying a knife, he was tired of being targeted by other kids and didn’t know how to deal with the problem. A month with the Hackney youth offending team helped him find a solution.

Teachers there helped him get back into education at Mossbourne Academy. He’s proof things can be turned around, and is now giving back to the community.

Kenny has taken a year out from studying politics, philosophy and economics at Goldsmiths to work for Hackney’s Community Volunteers Services (HCVS) as a project co-ordinator.

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He’s helping create better futures for young black men in the borough and beyond. This week he co-chaired the Youth Justice Convention. Focusing on “services that help to cut down offending and re-offending”, it brought together 300 young people from across the UK.

Battling inequality isn’t easy. “Institutional racism is just a fact,” he told the Gazette. “The way the media portrays young black men is stereotypical and very negative.”

Kenny is in the process of setting up a consultancy firm for young people. It will help them “master their craft by using whatever talent they have and finding out what they’re most passionate about”.

HCVS helped inspire the business. “I got the exposure to opportunities and saw the work being done behind the scenes to actually help and engage young people,” he says.

Kenny’s just jetted off to Atlanta for six months, but his work in Hackney will continue. The HCVS has helped him realise the impact he can have. “I was able to provide experience of my struggles,” he said. “Giving my expertise and helping them see they can make more of their lives.”