‘Ruby of the Bailey’. Student speaks for young people with West Ham United job

One student has ‘kicked off’ a professional match with her role at a famous football club’s Foundation that saw her speaking at the Old Bailey.

Ruby Williams from Lewisham in South East London is preparing to finish her Youth and Community Leadership (MA).

Like many UON ‘Y&C’ students and recent graduates, she started her new career well before collecting her degree certificate, following a successful placement.

And it’s a role that also combines her professional drive to support young people to be the best they can and her personal passion for football – she’s the new Youth Link Worker at West Ham United Foundation, a role that has also seen her feature in the media and talk at the Old Bailey.

Using the power and prestige of football, the Foundation supports local young people and communities to achieve the best of their abilities with personal development activities and interventions.

Ruby graduates next month and picks up her story of hard work, dedication and a little luck: “I feel lucky and blessed. When I started my placement with them through the Youth and Community Leadership programme, I was told there might be a job at the end of it. But I never thought it would happen, landing a dream job that meshes my two passions – football and helping young people achieve in life.

“I’ll correct myself here because, although I say job, I really mean vocation. What I am doing at West Ham United Foundation is nothing like a standard office job, I feel I am changing communities, one young person at a time, so I don’t just clock off at 5pm.

“The role is all about mentoring young people and link them into different services that would interest them, help them become what they want to be, to keep an eye on their development and provide a friendly ear whenever they need to talk. Whether they are interested in footie, swimming, or something else, my job is to be there for them.”

Most of the young people referred to Ruby come from GP practices in the Lewisham area of South East London; her work has even featured in top General Practice publication Pulse.

It has also given her the opportunity to stretch other professional skills, such as public speaking. Recently, as part of a West Ham United Foundation event at the Old Bailey, she gave a speech alongside Farzana Hussain, GP at The Project Surgery and Clinical Director of Newham Central 1 Primary Care Network, about an innovative partnership project they are delivering in Newham.

Ruby picks up her story: “It all stemmed from a colleague who is a GP clinic manager. I gave a speech outlining what I do at the Foundation, and it was exhilarating! I had the chance to meet the Mayor of Newham, professional football players and had a tour of the building.

“I never thought I would get to do something like that, but it was important because I had the chance to connect with other professionals from different partnerships and get the ball rolling on other ideas I have.”

Having picked up the ball, run with it and scored a few professional goals, Ruby looks back and credits her studies with University of Northampton with helping her get to where she is. She concludes: “Quite simply, I wouldn’t be where I am now without doing the MA with them. Thanks to the pandemic, I had to leave my previous job, and I wanted to do something that would see me pursue my passions. The MA and the placements during the course spurred me into action and aligned my mind to what I wanted to do, and the lecturers are big supporters of this.

“As a Black woman, I never had similar mentorships like the ones young people have with West Ham United Foundation, so I am also looking to be that Black woman for other young Black people. Young people want people like themselves to talk with, so I feel quite privileged to be in such a valuable and trusted position.”

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