A Poverty of Ambition by Al Duncan

“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself.”
Barack Obama, Knox College Commencement Address 2005

Even after hearing the phrase ‘dream big’ 3,297,391 times (or more) over the course of their life, most people still don’t get it.

‘Don’t rock the boat.’

‘Better safe than sorry.’

‘A bird in the hand beats two in the bush.’

These timeless maxims are sage advice. When taken to the extreme, however, they create a certain poverty of ambition.

Of course, something tangible that is actually working or in your ‘hand’, is better than a wish or pipe dream. But here’s the real question: Are those birds in the bush actually attainable?

If you had a rock-solid plan and the wherewithal to execute it, is it possible for you to get those two birds? Is it probable?

‘I’m going to get a degree in engineering or accounting.’ If you love either of those two great professions then by all means go for it. But choosing a profession because it’s the proverbial bird in the hand is the epitome of a poverty of ambition.

A choice like that is why too many people wake up sick to their stomachs about going to work. They wake up with a bad case of would’ve-could’ve-should’ve syndrome.

I would’ve been a great writer?

I could’ve started my own company or non-profit organization?

I should’ve never married this guy. He’s not a bird in the hand; he’s a bird brain in the hand!

Could you have the business, the family, and the philanthropy? Yes. People do it all the time, but not enough people.

According to the 2007 Just Start survey conducted by Intuit, Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU) 72% of Americans aspire to start their own business. That’s almost three out of four people, but how many actually do it?

There are over 300 million people living in the U.S. An estimated 23 million of them are entrepreneurs. That’s around 7%. So, less than one in ten people actually have enough ambition to make it happen. And that’s after years of record breaking entrepreneurial growth.

Whether it’s starting a business (for profit or non-profit), looking for a promotion, or making a living doing something that you REALLY love to do, there seems to be a paucity of calculated risk-takers.

So, what’s fueling this poverty of ambition? This lack of go-getters boils down to complacency and fear of the unknown.

“Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star”
-W. Clement Stone


Complacency is the ugly side of success. It’s a momentum killer and a dream slayer.

‘Why can’t you just be satisfied with what you already have?’

‘That’s good enough.’


I’ve got two words for you to live by:

Get better.

Everyday you want to work on getting better,better health, better relationships, better finances, better marketing, being a better servant to a worthwhile cause, and the list goes on.

(I guess the 1.6 billion dollars people spend on cosmetic surgery per year is proof that there’s no poverty of ambition when it comes to being better looking!)

Greatness and complacency cannot exist in the same mind.

Think about that. What if Mother Teresa or Gandhi had a poverty of ambition?

What if Cesar Estrada Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Harriet Tubman, or Frederick Douglass had a poverty of ambition?

Scary thought, isn’t it. A poverty of ambition can change the world in ways I don’t even want to imagine. To be complacent is to stop striving and to stop striving is to waste to your most precious gift life.

“I have learned over the years that once one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
Rosa Parks


I was stunned.

I looked at the students in disbelief and thought to myself, ‘They must not know what a CEO is.’

‘How many of you all know what the CEO of a company does?’

A lot of them raised their hands and someone yelled, ‘A CEO is the boss.’

‘They are the leaders’, another student added.

My next question was: ‘Do you all know that sometimes the CEO is also the person who owns maybe even started the company?’

There was a wave of nodding heads as a chorus of yeses filled the air.

‘Do you all understand that the CEO makes the most money?’

More head nodding and more yeses.

By then I was flabbergasted. These were some of the best students I know students of the historic Butler Street YMCA’s Multicultural Achievers Program of which I’m am the Steering Committee Chair and the Life Skills Coach.

The students were in the middle of a project that involved creating a company. As a part of the project, they were applying and interviewing for positions in the company. Out of a few dozen high school students not one of them had applied to be the CEO.

When I started to investigate why no one wanted to be CEO I got all kinds of answers.

They didn’t know what to expect. (Fear of the unknown.) They didn’t know if it would be too much work for them to handle or if it would be too much responsibility. (Fear of success.)

If anything went wrong they would be the first ones blamed and the first ones fired. (Fear of failure.) They were worried about what might happen. (Fear of success or failure: the unknown.)

They were afraid of the unknown and it was killing their ambition.


For many people fear of the unknown is a debilitating phenomenon that fuels a poverty of ambition. Here are five questions, however, to help you deal with fear of the unknown:

1. What could happen as a result of doing (whatever the action or decision maybe)?
2. What probably won’t happen as a result of doing?
3. What could happen as a result of not doing?
4. What probably won’t happen as a result of not doing?
5. How will I deal with each of the four answers from those questions?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions then do some more research, get some more guidance or advice, and make the best educated answer you can.

(The students couldn’t answer those questions at first, so the Program Director and I asked the CEO of the Butler Street YMCA to come in and talk to them.)

It’s that simple and, at times, that hard. But the unknown and your fear will be minimized,not necessarily gone, but minimized by answering these questions.

Let’s get back to those birds in the bush.

Here’s the interesting thing. None of this means that you have to necessarily let go of the bird in your hand.

While you are looking at the two birds in the bush and squeezing that bird in your hand to death, here’s a something to ask yourself.

The Million Dollar Question: Who ever said you couldn’t have all three?

And no that’s not being greedy. That’s called abundance.

Stop asking too little of yourself.

Lose the poverty of ambition.

Get the know-how, a good plan, and put them to use because you deserve a life of abundance, don’t you? A life overflowing with achievement and fulfillment is waiting for you if you will simply:

Get better.

Al “The Inspiration” Duncan is America’s Leading Youth Empowerment Advocate, a self-development expert, and a World-Class Youth Motivational Speaker. Visit him online at Youth Motivational Speaker

A Lesson on Leadership from Jackie Robinson by Al Duncan

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
-Jack Roosevelt ‘Jackie’ Robinson

Yesterday, April the 15th, was the 60th anniversary of an exceptional act of leadership that has left an indelible mark on history. Jackie Robinson became the first African-American major league baseball player.

Drifting into reverie while watching the ball games on Sunday, I wondered what it would be like to be a trendsetter of that magnitude.

How would it feel to be a leader that has affected the lives millions and millions to come? What do you say to yourself when you know you’ve taken a swing at history, caught a ball for the future, and rounded the bases for the ages?

You simply say that there is still more to be done and most importantly, you do it.

Thank God that Jackie Robinson didn’t think like many who say: ‘I did what I was supposed to do. It’s somebody else’s turn.’

Leadership is not about one time; it’s about as many times as possible.

A prominent business man and political activist, Jackie Robinson was a key leader in the establishment of the African-American owned and controlled Freedom Bank. In his syndicated newspaper column, he was an outspoken advocate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. To a lesser degree, he also supported Al-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz better known as Malcolm X.

Leadership is not about what you do in the spotlight, it’s about what you do on the spot.

Jackie Robinson showed courage and conviction long before he was in the spotlight. On July 6th 1944, more than a decade before Rosa Parks, his refused to conform to Jim Crow laws in the United States Army. Although his actions earned him a court marshal, he was later found not guilty of insubordination and was honorably discharged.

Leadership is not about the awards or praise that you receive, it’s all about the deed.

Jackie Robinson received numerous awards in baseball, including the National League Most Valuable Player Award, and was the recipient of two of the most prestigious awards an individual can receive: a Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He didn’t do it for the awards, however, he did it for the deed. In fact, he received the last two awards posthumously.

When the quote that you read at the beginning of this article came to my mind, I had to ask myself, as you should ask yourself- What impact are you having on other lives?

Jackie Robinson’s lesson on leadership is simple:

Do something to breakdown a barrier or carve out a path for someone else, not once, but as often as you can.

Al “The Inspiration” Duncan is America’s Leading Youth Empowerment Advocate, a self-development expert, and a World-Class Youth Motivational Speaker. Visit him online at Youth Motivational Speaker

A Lesson on Failure from Alfred H. Duncan, Sr.

‘Happy first Fathers Day!’

A warm, tingling sensation filled my chest as I responded to my father’s words of congratulations: ‘Thanks, Dad. Happy Father’s Day to you, man.’

After being on the phone for a few minutes longer, my father and I said our good-byes. As I stood there, in the middle of our kitchen, looking down at the bundle of endless potential in my arms, the sensation in my chest started to get more intense.

‘I promise with all that is in me to be a good dad and to show you how to be good man.’

Unable to really focus his eyes, Mekhi Eli, my one month old son, looked up at me as if to say: “You had better. I’m counting on you to lead the way.” Then with a stretch and a yawn, it was back to sleep for my little man.

As I contemplated various things to teach my son, I thought about how grateful I am for the myriad of lessons my father taught me. I wouldn’t be half the man I am had it not been for him. But there is one lesson, for which I am extremely appreciative, that stands apart from the others.

This lesson wasn’t intentionally taught. It was accidental. It wasn’t a conversation or shining example of what to do. It was a mistake- a costly mistake. There are things, however, that are seldom learned unless a mistake is made.

In case you can’t tell, I have much respect for my father. He was my childhood hero so, I took it pretty hard when he and my mom were divorced. But that was nothing compared to what was coming.

When I was 15 he told me something that was absolutely devastating. He told me that he was addicted to crack cocaine.

I remember standing there in complete disbelief thinking to myself: ‘My Dad is smokin’ rocks’! Naw you’re not my father, you’re an imposter! Heroes don’t loose to the bad guys.’

Pain and confusion filled the air. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. Too much anger. Too much resentment.

For a few years he battled his addiction and I, along with my two little brothers and three little sisters, battled our emotions. Eventually, we all won.

The day my dad came up to me and said,’Son, I did it, I beat it, I’m clean!’ I didn’t exactly greet him with open arms. Too much anger. Too much resentment.

But after awhile, admiration replaced anger, respect replaced resentment, and a priceless lesson replaced the pain. I have spoken and written about this lesson on numerous occasions.

Now matter what happens or what mistakes you make. Be it a bad grade, a bad interview, a bad relationship, bad credit, or just plain old bad decisions.  If my father came back from that then you know you can come back from whatever.

So, here’s one of your first lessons, Mekhi Eli. It’s from your granddad.

Failure is only permanent if you quit.

Al “The Inspiration” Duncan is America’s Leading Youth Empowerment Advocate, a self-development expert, and a World-Class Youth Motivational Speaker. Visit him online at Youth Motivational Speaker

7 Reasons To Never Give Up by Alton Jamison

My life has been full of challenges and obstacles. However, I realized that life is not about the smartest person or the strongest person, or even the richest person. Rather, life is about having the tenacity and the persistence to Never Give Up, even when you feel like giving up is the only option. I am here to tell you that you are too important to this world to give up. The world is waiting on your gifts. Here are 7 Reasons To Never Give Up:

1) Life Won’t Be The Same Without You

• You are important to this world and believe it or not, someone is waiting on you to bloom to enrich their lives. Yeah, I know you’re saying that nobody cares about you, but trust me, somebody does. You are too important to the world to just quit!

2) What If You Win

• You may feel like life is constantly challenging you and you can’t take it anymore. You may want to quit right now, even as you are reading this. But here is a thought, what if you win the next fight or what if you overcome the next obstacle. You will never know if you give up!

3) What Is Your Light Bulb

• Thomas Edison failed over 2000 times trying to create  the incandescent light bulb. When asked, he said he didn’t fail, he just found 2000 ways not to make a light bulb. So what are  the light bulbs in your life? What is that thing you can’t get right….don’t give up….because you are about to discover what you have been looking for.

4) Focus On The Future

• When an Olympic runner is in a race, he or she is focusing on one thing….the finish line. You have to focus on the big picture…not just where you are right now. Focus on where you want to be.

5) Learn To Say I Won’t

• Make an agreement with your mind and your mouth, that you “Won’t” give up, you “Won’t” be another statistic….you “Won’t” be a failure.

6) Life Ain’t No Crystal Stair

• One of my favorite poems is by Langston Hughes, called “Crystal Stair”. In that poem it’s a mother talking to her son telling him that “life ain’t no crystal stair”. In otherwords, life is tough, it has cracks and rough spots, but the ultimate end is victory…..but only to those who stood their ground and rode the course.

7) There Is A Rainbow After Every Storm

•Regardless of what you are facing, you can make it through…There is a rainbow on the other side of your situation. Stay strong, stay focused and……never give up!

Alton Jamison
“Teaching Real Methods To Help Young People Overcome Real Problems”
Professional Speaker, Author and Success Coach

10 Good Ways To Make a Great First Impression by Scott Greenberg

Our first meeting with someone sets the tone for our entire relationship. It also determines if there will be a relationship at all. It’s critical that the first impression we make be a good one. And since you never know when you’re going to meet someone important, you’re well advised to take the following advice.

1. Dress well. People begin evaluating you before your first words are exchanged. Whether you’re in formal, business or casual attire, make sure your outfit projects the best of your personality.

2. Have a mint. There’s almost nothing more distracting or repelling than bad breath. Make a practice of brushing your teeth well and using mouthwash. Never turn down a breath mint (cause it might be breath hint.).

3. Have a moderately firm handshake. This goes for women as well as men. Weak handshakes make you seem unsure of yourself. If you’re in a social setting, hold moist beverages in your left hand to keep your right hand dry.

4. Make good eye contact and stand up straight with your hands out of your pockets. This conveys confidence and respect.

5. Learn and use their name. Pay attention during introductions. Say things like ‘It’s nice to meet you, Steve.’ To reinforce their name in your brain.

6. Be a good listener. No one likes to feel trapped by someone who won’t stop talking. Ask questions and show the person that you’re interested in them.

7. Look for an opportunity to help them. Offer them a lead, a favor or an introduction to someone else. Gestures of kindness help people, make a good impression, and give you an excuse to contact them again.

8. Be 100% present with the person. Face them directly. Don’t look at your watch or over their shoulder.

9. Be aware if they’re not 100% present with you. Are they engaged in your conversation or just being polite? Are they asking you questions, or just answering yours? If they tend to look around, check their watch and/or shift their weight, bring your conversation to a close.

10. Follow up quickly and politely. Send a note or email to let the person know you enjoyed meeting them. If possible, make a reference to something you discussed, especially if it’s something humorous.

Feature on Club Flix

Club Flix is a Bath based film club run by young people for young people. If you are 13-21 years old Club Flix is for YOU! Are you a young writer or director? Do you want to work behind the camera or get in front of it? Club Flix is somewhere that you can connect with other young people and get your own short films started!

So what is Club Flix all about?

Club Flix is a film network for 13-21 year olds. We’re based in Bath but our website allows us to connect with young people all over the world! Club Flix is run by a steering group of 12 young people who organise and mentor events including filmmaking workshops, screenings and pitching opportunities. The website Forum means young people can talk to each other about their ideas and get their short films off the ground.

How did Club Flix get started?

Club Flix was started in February 2005, supported by Suited and Booted Studios in Bath. We’ve gone from strength to strength and have run 4 seasons of events, involving young people from all over the South West

and further a field. Club Flix commissions short films as well as featuring content on the website and offering support and advice about how to get your projects made.

How many members do you currently have and how many more members can you accept?

Club Flix is an open access club. If you’re 13-21, Club Flix is for YOU! You can get involved in a number of ways: sign up for a filmmaking workshop, attend a short film screening event, submit your own films to our online showcase or sign up to our online Forum. If you’re interested in film and have ideas about how we could improve our club, drop us an email and let us know your thoughts!

What is your role within the organisation?

I’m Club Flix’s Development and Support Worker meaning that I assist in co-ordinating events, running workshops and planning future activities as well as promoting the exceptional amount of young talent there is out there!

You have helped so many young people with various film projects what
have been some of your favourite and best films you have seen produced?
We recently ran a ‘Make a Comedy Film in a Day’ workshop where small crews of young people who had never worked together before produced a short comic film in just one day without any prior planning! It was an intense day but the three shorts that were produced were a great testament to the young people involved. There’s one about a man who loses control of his feet when out in town one day and the results are hilarious & surreal but hilarious! There’s another short in pre-production at the moment that Club Flix have commissioned, telling the story of a young boy’s adventure in a parallel world when he gets sucked through the back of a washing machine. There he meets the sock monster who steals odd socks. I’m really excited to see how it turns out!

You get to see first hand what young people can do in film given the
opportunities and the equipment to do so. What advice to do you give your budding filmmakers with aspirations of making a career out of it?
Filmmaking has never been easier to get involved in! Borrow a digital camcorder from a friend or relative, write a simple script and go out and shoot! Then, with simple editing programmes freely available on PCs and Macs, edit your film and post it online! Better still, send it to Club Flix for the chance of getting it on our showcase and included in our short film screening events! Check out our website for details of submitting your stuff and for hints, tips and links.

Do you work with any other media organisations?

Club Flix is supported by Suited and Booted Studios, a community video production company in Bath. We have close links with a number of other young people’s film clubs in the region and media production companies. See our ‘Useful Stuff’ page for some of our favourites.

Is Club Flix only open to people in
Bath to join?
No, Club Flix is open to everyone! Although our events tend to take place in the Bath / Bristol area, we have links with organisations,festivals and production companies all over the country and we aim to connect with young people from all over the world via our website!

Are there any plans to set up any other Club Flix groups around the
Club Flix has big plans for the future! If you think there ought to be something like Club Flix in your area, drop us an email and tell us why!

What are your plans for the coming year, any big events we should be
watching out for?
We’re just coming to the end of our 4th season of events. We have our short film screening night ‘Your Screen’ Featuring films made by young people from all over the country on March 28th and an event called “Wild Film History” On April 2nd which is an evening of archivefootage showing the development of natural history filmmaking over the past 100 years and is being hosted by some key natural history filmmakers. Keep checking our website for details of future events and let us know if you have any suggestions!

How can people go about becoming a member with Club Flix and what do

you get when you become a member?
There is no membership with Club Flix, you can get involved whenever you like. Events are generally free or cost just £1. For young people living in the Bath area, you can join the Club Flix Cinema Club which entitles you to a year’s free membership at the Little Cinema Theatre,Bath and includes all sorts of brilliant discounts.

Feature on Central Youth Theatre

How would you describe your youth organisation?

We provide opportunities for young people aged 8-25 years to learn a broad range of skills associated with the dramatic arts.

We also stage productions of the highest possible standard and develop young people’s interest in, and understanding of, all aspects of the production process, so the final performance becomes the responsibility of young people. E.g. lighting, sound, stage-management etc.

How does your organisation help young people?

By providing weekly workshops, special events, performances, international exchanges and festivals.

How many young people do you help?

We have an average size membership of around 100 young people.

How big is your organisation?

We are quite a small organisation. One part time director plus freelance staff.

What types of young people do you work with?

Our membership is open to anyone between age of 8-25 years of age living in or near Wolverhampton

We also offer a group for young people with special needs.

When was your organisation set up?


Why was it set up?

To provide youth theatre opportunities for young people

What have been the highlights and the achievements of the organisation so far?


CYT has a strong reputation for the diversity of its production work and has a great deal of experience of attending international festivals, as well as undertaking several foreign exchange programmes.

The International festivals we have attended include:

The Sapperlot International Youth Theatre Festival Prize in Brixen, Tyrol (00, 02, 04)
The Hollawind Festival, Brixen, Tyrol (05 & 06).
Soukani Festival Czech Republic (01, 03 & 05)
Austrian National Youth Theatre Festival, Hall Austria (05)
Step by Step Festival, Rezekne, Latvia (04)
European Youth Theatre Camp, Hall, Austria (03)
Baden Inscenario Festival, Vienna, Austria (06)
Paderborn International Theatre Festival (04)
International  Theatertreff   Lörrach,  Germany (04 & O6)
Youth on Stage Festival, Leuven, Belgium (03)
Cabinteely International Youth Drama Festival, Dublin, Ireland (94, 97 & 00)
Moscow International Student Theatre Festival (90)

Exchange programmes include work with:
Austria, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy Lithuania and Russia.

Festivals within the UK include:

3 award winning visits to the Irish Cabinteely International Youth Drama Festival (94, 97 & 2000).   In 97 the group scooped twelve awards for best group and individual performances.
7 week long visits to National Youth Arts Festival, N. Devon (87/88/89/92/94/98/99)
3 visits to the month long Edinburgh Fringe Festival (88/90/91)
BT National Connections Youth Drama Festival (97)
Lloyds Bank National Theatre Challenge (89 & 92)
National Student Drama Festival (89)
Jammin’ 85 in Battersea Park, London.(85)

Workshops with international and national theatre directors/tutors from:

The RSC, Royal National Theatre, Academic Theatre Vilnius Lithuania, Tag Theatre Venice, Belgium, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy and Richmond USA, along with many other freelance drama specialists.

Theatre Productions Staged

The range of performances staged is varied and challenging, from text based classics to modern contemporary playwrights and devised work. Examples of work staged by senior members include:

Zigger Zagger, Scully, Blood Brothers, Look Back in Anger, Macbeth, Jungle Book, The Shoot Horses Don’t They adapted from the film, Archangels Don’t Play Pinball, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Anna Karenina, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, The Mill on the Floss, Alice in Wonderland, The Bar Mitzvah Boy & One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

Between 2000 and 2005 Youth Theatre has collaborated with the Wolverhampton Arena Theatre to stage an annual pantomime for a ten day run, there productions were written especially for the company by professional playwright Jonathan Collings.

Performance Venues

Besides regular performances at the Arena Theatre,  CYT have also staged work at the Newhampton Arts Centre, Grand Theatre, Wulfrun Hall, local School/Community Centres and in many different type of venues in the international countries the young people have visited.

Film & TV Work

In 1985, as part of the International Youth Year, CYT was selected from out of 500 groups around the country to devise and create a half hour TV drama which was to become the English film in an International Series entitled “It’s Our World” The youth theatre’s film was called “It’s Good ‘Ere ‘Innit” and was shown not just on Channel 4 but also in Japan, Israel & Australia.

Local film and TV companies often contact the youth theatre to find young people for extra work.  Members have been involved in films such as Merchant Ivory’s “The feast of July” and TV programmes such as Crimewatch, Jupiter Moon and The Bill.

What are the plans for the organisation this year?

We are planning a range of activities to celebrate our 25th Anniversary.

Feature on Awards for Young Musicians

Do you want to get in to music but don’t have the money to pursue your dreams? Have you always wanted to play an instrument or get professional teaching? Then this interview is for you as we talk to Hester Cockcroft director of Awards for Young Musicians an organisation set up to help young musicians facing financial hardship.

When was Awards for Young Musicians set up?
Awards for Young Musicians (AYM) is a registered charity and company limited by guarantee, founded in August 1998. The organisation was set up as the result of the legacy of Robert Lewin, who left an extraordinary collection of instruments in his will, on the instruction that they be sold to create an endowment fund, which would help support the development of the UK’s most talented young musicians. However this fund is finite and reducing every year as we eat into the capital and AYM must therefore constantly fundraise in order to raise enough income to support our work.

Who was behind getting it off the ground and why was there such a need for Awards for Young Musicians in the
AYM got off the ground thanks to the work of its very dedicated Board of Trustees who arranged the creation of the charity and then employed a Director to run the organisation. The reason why there is such a need for AYM is simple: supporting and developing a talented young musician in order to enable them to fulfil their creative potential is extremely expensive. Huge investment is needed: hours dedicated to practice, travel to be taught by the best available teachers, specialised courses to expand musical horizons and build on skills, the purchase or loan of high quality instruments and a whole range of less obvious costs. Therefore in families where income is low it is often impossible for the money to be sourced to support these expenses. This is where AYM aims to help. By fundraising from a wide range of sources, we run an annual awards process, where £50,000 is distributed to the most talented young musicians in the greatest financial need. We also offer a year round advice and information service for young musicians and their families.

What age groups to you work with?

We support young people between 5 and 18 years old. In this year’s awards the youngest recipient was 7 and the oldest was 17.

What different types of awards do you offer and who is eligible to apply?

Awards are offered at a range of different levels, according to the recommendation of our adjudication panel, so they can be as low as £200 or as high as £2000. The average award this year was £800. To be eligible to apply a young person needs to show evidence of genuine financial need, and we ask for details of family income as part of the application process. They must also show strong evidence of considerable musical talent and real motivation. If they have taken music exams then exam results and examiners reports are helpful, but it doesn’t matter if they haven’t taken exams, as long as they can show that they have real musical ability. We also ask the young musician’s teacher to fill in a reference form and send it to us separately so that we can get their perspective.

What is the current state of young people learning to play instruments in the
UK? Is money holding many talented people back?
Provision is very patchy for young people who might want to learn to play an instrument. Some schools put a much higher priority on supporting their students musical development than others, and yes, much of it does come down to the funding available. This makes it difficult for young people who may have real talent to develop their playing, especially if their family income makes it hard for them to afford private lessons outside school hours.Government funding for music teaching in schools is very limited, and until the Spending Review later this year it is not known what kind of budgets schools will be given to support instrumental teaching beyond March 2008.However there are many highly committed organisations working in music education across the UK who are advocating very strongly for more government support for young people to develop their musical talents, whatever kind of instrument they might want to play or genre of music they are interested in.

What is your role in the organisation and what does your job involve?

I’m the Director. I took over running the organisation in May and my job involves developing the organisation’s work in the most strategic and effective way possible, so that we can make absolutely sure that we are doing all we can to support all the many talented young musicians out there who need our help. I’m writing a new Business Plan at the moment which will set out our vision for the next three years, and as part of this I’m talking to all sorts of individuals and organisations working in music up and down the country to discuss ways in which we can collaborate. It would be great to hear from the visitors to your site about how we might be able to help them more effectively, so do get in touch! My job also involves planning and managing new creative projects, fundraising to raise money for our work, publicising what we do in as many ways as possible, attending meetings and conferences, managing budgets – you name it, I do it!

How many young people do you help a year and how much money is given away in support?

This year we helped 62 young people, awarding a total of £50,000.

What are some of the popular instruments that young people ask you for support with?

This varies from year to year: this year we helped young musicians buy everything from new electric guitars and saxophones to bassoons and villean pipes. And please remember that it’s not just instrument purchase that we support we are happy to support all sorts of other costs that a young musician might need help with. For example the awards this year were for: 4 music school fees, 22 music lessons, 1 membership fees, 3 orchestral fees, 4 music course fees, 22 instrument purchase, 1 summer school and 1 travel costs. In addition four young musicians benefited from a three year award from us.

What advice would you give to any young budding musician out there?

Never stop working and never stop believing that you can make a career in music, but do appreciate that it will take a great deal of work and perseverance. You might become a millionaire rock star or concert pianist equally you might become a really skilled musician who works in disadvantaged communities to literally transform people’s lives through music.Success in music has many different faces and they’re all equally valid and equally important.
I’d also say do make the most of all the help that’s out there for young people wanting to develop their musical interests and talents it’s really worth doing your research. The UK has an incredible range of organisations who want to support you and the web is absolutely the best place to start looking.

How can we find out more about Awards for Young Musicians?

Visit our website at www.a-y-m.org.uk or call us on 0117 9049906 and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.Please note that the site is due for a major re-design, so don’t be put off by the fact that many of the images are of classical musicians we support talented young people playing all types of music.

Feature on Ascension Eagles Cheerleaders

The Ascension Eagles Cheerleaders are Britain’s number one cheerleading team. They have entertained millions of people and won hundreds of trophies in the process. They are true champions on the mat and off the mat through the amazing youth outreach work they do so we thought it was about time we found out more about them.

How did the Ascension Eagles Cheerleaders get started?

Ascension Eagles Cheerleaders (AEC) started in 1996 as an outreach of Ascension Church Centre, Custom House in the Victoria Docks. Originally, some cheerleaders for a church 5-a-side tournament, but when that was over, the cheerleaders wanted to keep training. We ran it as an informal youth club for a bit, and then the young people decided they wanted to make it official, so we had tryouts and everyone had to make a commitment to step up and become a proper squad.

How many boys and girls have you currently got on the squad and what ages do they range from?

We have 100 girls and 20 boys, ranging in age from 5 to 25.

What have been your highlights and best performances so far as a group?

As we start our 12th season, we have entertained over 200 million people, won over 300 trophies and have travelled to Germany, Finland, France, Slovenia, Monaco, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and the USA. Very few squads world-wide can claim that sort of record. Just this past year, we had the honour of opening Wembley at the FA Cup, and being on the pitch with Prince William and other celebrities. We returned to Wembley for the FA Community Shield in August, and were featured in Caris magazine that month as well. Performing live with TAKE THAT was pretty incredible. Winning Nationals was sensational.
All of these opportunities and successes give you a huge rush, and are pinnacle moments. But what really makes it all worthwhile is seeing the changes in our members’ lives on a day-to-day basis. For instance, we’ve just completed our 2007-08 tryouts and as we watched returning members audition, we were able to note how far they’ve come in a year. Their skills are certainly better, but it was their confidence and the light in their eyes that really moved me. AEC have a strong sense of belonging. It’s sharing this amazing journey with our AEC family that makes is so worthwhile. And we are confident that the best is yet to come!

Now to some cheerleading may be seen as pompom waving at sporting games but cheerleading is about more than that, can you tell us a little bit about the hard work and training that goes in to your performances?

Our members audition each September and train at least twice weekly, year-round. We teach them championship level cheerleading — which involves high energy stunting, dance, jumps and tumbling — as well as values that underpin a strong team. Cheerleading involves the same components as many other sports — strength, flexibility, cardio-fitness, endurance, timing, coordination — but it is unique in that it offers many opportunities to develop the young people as leaders as well. Our young people run our program. Plus they gain the confidence to get up in front of thousands of others and demonstrate their skills.Girls worldwide are captivated by this sport. Because they are interested in it, it can be used to transform their fitness and community involvement. For some, it becomes a lifeline. When you find something that makes a positive difference, you go with it.

How does it feel to be British Champions and to be representing the country at next years world championships?

It is a tremendous honour. Only the top one per cent of teams worldwide get to compete at the Worlds level.With this honour comes the responsibility of representing our country well. We know that thousands of UKcheerleaders would love to be there with us. When we walk onto the Worlds floor, we are representing them. We desperately want to do our best and advance England’s world ranking. When you accept a Worlds bid, it feels great, but you also get this strong sense of a mantle being placed around your neck, that you carry as you try to raise the funds and train appropriately. You are not just doing it for your team, you are doing it on behalf of so many. We have to push harder than we ever have before.

How do you guys fund all the amazing things you do, equipment and so forth?

It is very, very difficult. Our members’ families make a lot of sacrifices for their children to be part of our program. We do a lot of fundraising, and also performances that generate performance donations. We build relationships with corporates, and find ways to help them partner with us to meet their community objectives. Raising money is a constant pressure. With Worlds before us, we are not honestly sure how we are going to get there financially. That’s part of the burden that comes with the honour. We welcome all the support we can get.

Now the Ascension Eagles are also heavily involved in giving back and training Can you tell us a little bit about the
London CheerleadingAcademy?
Ascension Eagles are committed to seeing cheerleading develop as a sport across the UK. When we have the opportunity to learn new skills or compete at the top international level, it makes our program stronger. We take all that we’ve learned and find ways to share it with others. AEC founded London Cheerleading Academy (LCA) as a major part of that commitment. Each month our AEC coaches — who are young people who have grown up in AEC and have made a commitment to giving back — volunteer their time and talent to help others develop as cheerleaders. Our AEC coaches volunteer over 200 hours each year coaching others; our AEC program pays for them to take their coaching exams, and also funds Child Protection and First Aid training for them. We want to equip them to coach at the highest possible level.
Some other cheer squads hire in choreographers to do their routines; we have taken a different route. We have hired top trainers to come in and train up our coaches. This not only develops them as leaders, but helps us to run a sustainable program and enables our young leaders to make a major contribution to UK cheerleading. Last year our coaches worked with over 2000 other young people through our LCA outreach.

Your ethos is 1 Dream, 1 Heart, 1 Team, 1 Family, no regrets. How came up with the ethos and how important is that philosophy to your group?

Some of our young leaders came up with that ethos. It reminds us of all we share in common — especially when life’s difficult circumstances threaten to pull us apart. In everything we do, we strive to live our lives with NO REGRETS. Once something is over, you cannot change the past. We can only learn from our experiences and make sure we grow stronger and better. We try to live INTENTIONALLY, so that we do not miss opportunities to give our best. That’s how we live life we no regrets.

What big competitions and performances have you got coming up that people will be able to see you perform at?

October 28th: NFL, Wembley

November 10th: Lord Mayor’s Show, London (televised worldwide or come watch it live in London)

December 2nd: FutureCheer Winter Wonderland, Brentford — Regional Cheer Championships (www.futurecheer.net)
If any aspiring coaches are looking for training opportunities, come to the National Coaches Conference October 13-14 — go to www.futurecheer.net for more info. It is going to be amazing!

What are you ambitions and hopes as a team for the coming year?

We aim to make a transformational difference in the lives of each of our members, as they train, entertain, compete and engage in a series of Lifeskills & Leadership development opportunities. We use competitions to measure our progress in skills development, and we will be aiming to retain our Championship titles. Each year teams across the nation are advancing at a rapid rate. We all have to work hard if we want to win the titles, but that’s great because it improves the overall competitive standard across the UK.
In 2006 we were the first English team to compete at the elite Cheerleading World Championships. We were ranked 12th. In 2007, we were ranked 7th. In 2008, our goal is to make it to the top 5. This will be a tremendous challenge as international cheerleading advances across the globe, but we really want to strive towards this goal.

What skills and qualities do you have to have to be an Ascension Eagle?

Commitment to work hard and give your best efforts at all times. Ascension Eagles make a commitment to their team, so they have to put others first. We also expect our members to follow a Code of Conduct — which the founding members wrote — and to strive to be a role model in all areas of their lives. Individually, the majority of our members may not have amazing skills or talent, but when they come together, these ordinary young people do extraordinary things! They become record-breaking, history-making Champions!

Feature on Asaria Performing Arts

How would you describe your youth organisation?

Asaria has been established for over seven years and are based in Tottenham, North London. The pupils are aged anywhere from 4- teenagers and are able to develop skills in Acting, Dance and Singing. Our 3 practitioners are professionals in their own fields and we also have 3 volunteers that help out every week. Asaria has over 40 boys and girls from a wide cultural background and pupils live in Haringey and Enfield. Pupils can take vocational examinations in Ballet and Acting, gain casting opportunities and perform at local community events and West End theatre productions.

How does your organisation help young people?

We help parents/carers to make friends and offer volunteer opportunities when possible.  Children/young people can make friends, gain confidence and develop a sound awareness and understanding of performing as an artist, developing new skills and using skills to gain work as a young actor/ess. Our low fees enable  those who would not usually be able to access such services to enjoy working with professionals. Our children/young people are fortunate to appear at West End productions, on TV, take examinations and have the full support from local schools, businesses and our local M.P.

How many young people do you help?

We have over 40 children/young people aged 4-teens who regularly attend the weekly Arts club.

How big is your organisation?

We are a small organisation and including myself as the volunteer manager/teacher of Dance/Acting/Singing, there are 2 hourly paid professional teachers, 1 volunteer teacher from a local school and 2 teenage volunteers who previously attended Asaria.

What types of young people do you work with?

Children/young people may be gifted and talented, facing difficulties at school/home (behavioural, emotional issues.  Many of our pupils really enjoy attending the weekly club and we try to work as closely with schools/parents/colleges as possible to encourage participation/retainment.

When was your organisation set up?

Asaria was originally set up September 2001 by myself (Amanda Neufville)

Why was it set up?

I set the organisation up because I felt the lack of opportunities for children/young people from BME’s were quite limited in my local area. I aimed to provide affordable professional tuition, develop examinations for young people and source accredited, reputable TV agents would take on pupils from Asaria.  Also to develop partnerships with schools, community centres, local organisations etc. I used to work in a number of highly accredited Performing Arts companies and always wanted to offer really good opportunities for kids that were not as well off. The organisation is based in an area that is not always portrayed positively due to crime/economically deprived area etc other issues.

What have been the highlights and the achievements of the organisation so far?

Six years of providing opportunities for over 2,500 youngsters to perform at some of London\s most prestigious West End theatres. Building good relations with schools, community centres/local organsiations.  Working with professional casting agents to provide  auditions for some of the young people.  Working with course providers and building relations with examiners to help children/young people to achieve very good grades in Dance and Acting examinations.

Performing at the official Queens Jubliee in Barnet four years ago, David Lammy M.P for Tottenham is using our pupils on his parliamentary web site as he attends our yearly certificate awards for young achievers and having a good relationship with parents/carers who support Asaria through weekly fee payments

What are the plans for the organisation this year?

Pupils will be able to look forward to Acting and Ballet examinations, a West End performance production at the Sadler’s Wells theatre, Sunday 23rd March and a summer fundraising activity to raise money for a Disneyland Paris production in July 2009.  We hope to recruit more volunteers and teenagers, especially boys.  To bring our web-site up to date and relaunch a new package

How can young people get in touch with your organisation?

We are hoping to have a web site in the next few months too. We also welcome visitors to attend and speak to practitioners, look around the venue etc.