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The mother turning tragedy into triumph for youngsters

IN MEMORY: Alison Cope with her son Joshua

A BIRMINGHAM mother turned youth campaigner is celebrating the success of the awards ceremony she put on almost single-handedly in honour of her late son.

The Birmingham Conference and Events Centre played host to the inaugural Joshua Ribera Awards recently, honouring the inspirational young people who are turning their lives around from difficult starts.

The event is the brainchild of Alison Cope and was named after her son, who was stabbed to death in September 2013. The nominees and eventual winners were young people currently based in one of 13 alternative education provisions, including Hunters Hill College that Joshua attended, and are working to improve their character or academic performance.

The winners included special recognition, which was given to the College's Martin Scarlett who Alison supported during his time there. "The Awards really went well," Alison told The Voice.

“These are the young people that do not get rewarded. Because they aren’t in mainstream school, they don’t get to go to their proms because they’ve been excluded.”

However, the event could have been scuppered by the reluctance of some of the nominees to even attend, afflicted by the effects of being abused, neglected, failing, being in care and being caregivers.

“This award ceremony is the first of its kind in our region in recent times and was inspired by Josh, who was not in formal education in his teenage years, but later used positive activities like his passion for music to turn his life around,” said Alison.

“I got so much inspiration from him and he’s a big reason we have run this event. Josh was excluded from school and had other challenges, but at least he had me
– so many of the young people in referral units did not have someone like me in their lives.

“These awards are a way to reinforce positive messages to the young winners as well as positively influencing their peers. The power of positive recognition in communities is very important and it is my sincere hope that these awards will be a legacy for generations to come.”

Despite the success of the event, Alison’s initial thought was only to organise something like a prom event for the displaced learners in the region. However, the event evolved, and so had her move into campaigning. “Since losing Josh, I saw many young people that were falling through the net of support and education due to the lack of services now available for young people,” she said.

“I talk to many young people in schools, colleges and prisons about life and choices, but how with support and help we can overcome many things, I started to meet many young people that had overcome a lot in their short lives.

FACILITIES

“I often speak in alternative education facilities and I was meeting young people that had really started to turn their lives around, but because of the exclusion from mainstream school were missing out on the things that have now become the norm in mainstream schools – proms and awards evenings.


BIG ACHIEVEMENT: Isaac Gordon-Wright stands proud with his award

“Last year I thought I would put on a prom for these young people with an awards ceremony included for those that were working to improve their lives.” Alison tried and failed to secure community and business support over a six-month period, but she persevered and even contributed herself.

She explained: “In October last year I booked the venue and began applying for funding, but sadly out of the 240 companies I contacted only one replied. Headstart Wolverhampton and West Midlands Police sponsored me and a few local companies supported me, but the multi-million pound Birmingham companies weren’t interested,.

“Sadly I did not raise enough to fund the event so paid a lot on my credit card.” She added: “I will be putting these awards on again as the young people got so much from this event and people started to view these young people with the respect they deserve; not naughty, disrespectful children, but children who have struggled and with love and support are coming through.

“My intention is to roll this event out to other areas, perhaps taking in London, Manchester and other areas and perhaps present the winners with something that will help them succeed in their studies, like a laptop.”

Joshua had just turned 18 when, in September 2013, he was stabbed at an event in the Selly Oak area of Birmingham, that was held to commemorate the death of a victim of knife crime.

At the time, he had become a successful urban music artist, performing as Depzman, once topping iTunes charts.

And the award winners were...

Lawnswood Campus: Issac Gordon-Wright Reach School: Chloe and Brandon

Magee West Midlands UTC: Marshall Gayle

Hunters Hill College: Dontea West and Nathan Paling

St George’s Academy: Natans Bormanis and Bethany Pritchard

The Edge Academy: Savannah Baker and Ryan Lawmon

City of Birmingham School, Link Centre:

Deemah Khashan and Yahya Mohammed

City of Birmingham School, Kings Centre: Beckham Hall and Ali Raza

The Switch Project: Tori Povey and Sam Harris Re-Entry: Kayne Wright and Aaron Johnson Lawnswood Campus: Dale Carter

City of Birmingham School, Millpool

Centre: Ethan Harte

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