HE WAS a promising rapper with a future mapped out in the music industry but Shane Johnson was driven to helping the youth in his community and is now driving that same passion across the ocean.
Shane hails from Bradley, West Yorkshire and says he has ‘first-hand experience of growing up in a community where disadvantage, crime and poverty rates are high.’
Now sharing his own difficult journey with school children, young offenders and looked after children he is extending his work to the very school his mother attended in Jamaica.
On the fringes of criminal activity himself, 34-year-old Shane wanted to find a way to make some positive changes: “I saw a lot of things going on in my community and i wanted to help but i didn’t know what angle to approach it from.
“There was crime, drugs, violence, alcohol, misuse, anti-social behaviour and criminal exploitation. I saw friends going away to prison for 10 to 15 years, too many of them.
“So, I wanted to lead by example – not just for my children but also for my community. We can change our mindset. And if we do change our mindset to a positive one there are great rewards for it.”
And Shane is living proof of that. His music was so popular that he had more than 100,000 views on YouTube and in 2015 he was one of two winners of the BBC Radio 1Xtra rap contest #YourMove, chosen above some 600 entrants.
But he always knew that wasn’t the path he was intended to follow. He said: “I got really good exposure after the 1Xtra competition but I didn’t think music was for me. It was just something that was going to start me off on my journey.”
A short stint of community volunteering and a role helping youngsters with their rap skills in Lenny Henry’s play, Sound Clash, was the impetus Shane needed to steer onto the right path.
Two and a half years ago he established Positive Stepz, working with young people throughout the borough to offer one-to-one and group mentoring sessions in schools, youth clubs, children’s residential homes and other settings.
Yet, despite his hectic schedule, when Shane heard that family members in Birmingham were raising funds to buy a school bus for his mother’s former school, he too wanted to jump on board. His mum, Cynthia, who is now 78 years of age, came over to England to work when she was just 19.
She alerted him to the school’s plight and Shane has ploughed himself into the fundraising mission – bringing on board a school that he works with, North Huddersfield Trust School, to help raise funds.
The school, a mixed secondary school located in the Fartown area of Huddersfield, will be charging pupils £1 to wear their own clothes for a day and all contributions will be added to the fund.
Shane is also seeking donations to fill barrels with school supplies and send over to the school, located in St. Elizabeth, for the start of the new school year.
Headteacher, Kayon Whyne, said: “We at Rose Hall Primary and Infant School are so grateful for the assistance from the UK. We need the bus to add value to our curriculum. Our school is situated in a deep rural community. Our parents are from a low socio-economic background with limited education.
“We also hope to use the bus as transport to and from school to heighten our students’ safe- ty as the terrain is filled with many lonely paths and just a few weeks ago an eight-year- old was raped and murdered in another community in Kingston.
“The bus will also provide a cheaper means of excursion for the children as presently it costs JA $60,000 (£348) for us to charter a bus and trips are not subsidised by the Ministry of Education.”
Shane sees this as the beginning of a long-term partnership with the school hoping to visit there in the near future and offer mentoring sessions: “I would love to do the work that I do here, out there. I will learn so much from the children and I believe that will help me in my work here.
“It would be good to take children from the UK to spend two weeks at a school in Jamaica so that they could experience life out there.”
But right now, Shane is focused on his ventures here, which will see him return to education and gain a degree in youth work and build up the music studio he recently opened with a partner in Bradford.
Working with the young people he mentors, Elite Studios will provide artistic management and promote positive vibes.
“I want to teach young people that there is nothing wrong with talking about where you come from and how life is but it’s important how you express it. I want to promote positive music. We are kings and queens and that’s the knowledge that I want to empower our black youth with.”
To find out more and/or help his cause in Jamaica visit Shane’s LinkedIn page at linkedin.com/in/shane-johnson-51424a138 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org