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Wolverhampton's The Way Youth Zone in birthday celebrations

By Clare Butler | Wolverhampton entertainment | Published:

Hundreds turned out to celebrate the second anniversary of Wolverhampton's The Way Youth Zone as a new activity area was unveiled.

L-R: MP Pat McFadden, MP Emma Reynolds, Deputy Mayor Phil Page, chief executive at The Way Carla Priddon, and chairman of The Way John Gough

The £5.5 million complex in School Street opened in January 2016 and has since gone on to welcome thousands of children through its doors, with weekly activities ranging from football, rock climbing and martial arts.

Birthday celebrations were kick-started on Saturday afternoon, with special performances, a roller disco, inflatables and a cake-cutting ceremony with the Mayor.

Olga Suta, aged eight

John Gough, chairman, said The Way was the 'jewel in the crown' of Wolverhampton.

He explained: "It has been a fantastic two years with lots of hard work put in and an amazing effort from our supporters and local authority.

"We have a facility here that offers youngsters a place to go and someone to speak to, while they can take part in lots of activities every night.

Ostap Suta, aged 12

"There are nearly 4,000 people registered with us now – it has certainly become a jewel in the crown of Wolverhampton."

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The site was championed by entrepreneur, Steve Morgan OBE with additional backing from the Morgan Foundation, The Queen’s Trust and St James’s Place Foundation.

Young people aged eight to 19 or up to 25 with a disability, can take part in 20 activities every night of the week.

Carla Priddon, chief executive officer, said: "To be here celebrating is absolutely brilliant. We have thousands of members and 300 come every night of the week.

Isiya Stacey, aged nine, with instructor Pauline Bennett

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"We are also running three employment programmes and a mentoring programme.

"We have 75 staff and hundreds of volunteers and we are open over 40 hours a week outside of school time.

"When we were first planning something like this we were optimistic that it would do well, but this has surpassed what we thought. We just want to continue reaching out to more young people."

L-R: Malaki Jackson, Jahni Dyer, Kya Wakeley, Millie Baggs, Josh Merrick, Evie Baggs and Dwight Reed in brand new games room The Den

A new area called 'The Den' for youngsters to chill out and play video games along with getting advice on a range of lifestyle matters also opened in the centre on Saturday.

Ms Priddon continued: "The Den is supported by Steve Morgan who also gave us a new mini bus just before Christmas. It will be a games area, with retro games and places to chill but we will also be doing work with young men about relationships and sexual health."

A cake was cut by special guests Emma Reynolds MP and Deputy Mayor Councillor Phil Page.

The Wolverhampton North East MP wrote on Twitter afterwards: "Fantastic 2nd birthday party @TheWayYouthZone - great to be there with their chair John Gough, Deputy Mayor Phil Page & @patmcfaddenmp and what a beautiful cake! #Wolverhampton"

L-R: MP Pat McFadden, 12-year-old Millie Baggs, Deputy Mayoress Elaine Hadley-Howell, chief executive at The Way Carla Priddon, Deputy Mayor Phil Page, MP Emma Reynolds, and chairman at The Way John Gough

A mission statement on The Way's website says: "Our story began back in 2012 when Wolverhampton Council in partnership with local business people saw the OnSide Youth Zone model in other towns and cities and as a result wanted to give the young people of Wolverhampton access to a Youth Zone, and the benefits it can bring for the whole community.

"Championed by successful entrepreneur, Steve Morgan OBE and with additional backing from the Morgan Foundation, The Queen’s Trust and St James’s Place Foundation, this once-in-a-lifetime project became a reality for the city’s young people from early 2016.

"On January 16, 2016 we officially opened our doors to young people. Ever since then we’ve been offering young people eight to 19 or up to 25 with a disability over 20 activities every night."

Clare Butler

By Clare Butler
Senior Reporter - @CButler_Star

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