Loyalist student inspired to work with troubled youth

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Southward engages in several activities with youth to create a positive atmosphere. Photo by Frankford Youth Centre.

By: David Tuan Bui

BELLEVILLE – When reading local news stories involving youth within the community, a Loyalist College student was inspired to volunteer in the hopes of making a difference.

Jonathan Southward, 20, a community justice student at Loyalist College, hopes to shape young lives to lead them down right paths in life.

"I started seeing certain people (kids) that made the news because of their criminal justice behaviour," he said.

His community service focuses on improving the lives of children of all kinds. In the future, he wants to work with children that have criminal problems to get them on the right track. His philosophy is that he wants to correct their behaviour as soon as possible rather than allowing children to reach their low points in adulthood and correcting their mistakes then.

"There's a root to all this, it's not just they're bad people. I want to get to the root of the problem and prevent them from even getting to that point," he says.

Southward began his volunteer work as a tutor at Frankford Youth Centre in September 2017. He assists in several subjects such as math, history, and drama for Grades seven and eight. He also organizes activities and plays games with the children at the youth centre.

He completed a one-month placement at the John Howard Society in Belleville, which provides services to help people in trouble with the law to be integrated back into society. He is graduating from Loyalist this summer in a two-year program. Southward knows the options he wants to take in his career after graduation.

“I want to work with at-risk youth in the community to help prevent them from going down paths that they should never go down. Keep them out of the criminal justice as best I can,” he said.

Southward was born and raised in Oakville until he was 18 when his family moved to Campbellford. He lives with his parents and has one older brother.

He volunteered for several programs during high school, including the drama club. He also participated in homeless awareness events, and he travelled to Belize to work with children.

"The youthfulness and enthusiasm of Mr. Jonathan Southward brings a much-needed element to our centre," says Wylie. "The youth who visit the centre connect with him naturally with very positive results since Jonathan not only helps maintain the policies of our centre in regards to their behaviour but endeavours to give them practical and helpful advice for their daily lives."

Southward's efforts were recently recognized.

He is a runner-up for the Maurice Rollins Community Leadership Award for Youth in late April, which recognizes an outstanding member of the community showing great leadership towards youth.

He received a $1,000 bursary in mid-April for his community service. He was nominated by his employer, Mathew Wylie, at Frankford Youth Centre.

“I was so humbled and honoured. I was reading about it and wow, how incredible is that?” he said. “There was an awards breakfast and I was thinking that’s cool and then I got there and yeah, this was pretty big.”

Southward said he finds these experiences are rewarding and enjoyable. He enjoys meeting new people and listening to every child.

“I meet a lot of kids with different stories. Some have similar stories to mine. Some have a wide variety and I’m very intrigued. I like to observe. I like to read people, see their behaviour patterns, so I find that fascinating sometimes just watching the different behaviours,” he said.

Working with young people can be challenging.

“Youth can be difficult,"  he says. “So, I know they test you."

It can be really tough working with one kid, compared to dealing with 20 at one time, he added.

"I was nervous,” he said.

Southward’s interests include watching sports like hockey, football and golf. His favourite sports teams are the Detroit Red Wings, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Green Bay Packers. He never played competitive sports growing up, but he enjoys pick-up ball hockey. He also likes to fish including fly fishing and centrepin fishing, among others.

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