Nathan White comes ‘full circle’ now managing Portadown YMCA programme he utilised as youth
A provision he once used as a youth, the YMCA has always been a huge part of Nathan White’s life. After spending three years in America as a camp counsellor Nathan is now set to return to the States, this time as a Youth Work Manager, creating new and unforgettable memories with the young people he works with in YMCA, Portadown.
What is your role in the company and what does a typical day entail?
As a youth work manager at YMCA Portadown, I have responsibility for the management and development of our youth programmes; developing youth work initiatives alongside young people and other agencies in the wider West Portadown area.
Furthermore, I have the responsibility of managing our youth work staff and volunteer team who are an incredible asset to YMCA Portadown.
The beauty of my role is that no day is the same. That being said, I’ll try to give you a flavour of a day in the life of a youth work manager. The morning would normally start off by checking my emails while communicating with staff to ensure they have what they need for the week including schedules, delivery plans etc.
Morning would then progress by looking through our monitoring system which collects qualitative data on the youth work sessions delivered while marrying these with our youth work delivery reports on previous sessions delivered. There would then be a brief look at our income and expenditure procurement procedures adding items for purchase and ensuring salaries for staff are assigned and correct. Most mornings cover the administrative side of the role, covering management of our programme & staff and quite often, after lunch, things turn to project planning and session delivery.
In preparation for sessions, we engage with other key agencies such as the Education Authority, other local youth centres, schools such as Craigavon Senior High School and others to ensure our programmes best meet the needs of the young people of Portadown.
This preparation would complement the delivery of a wide range of youth work sessions delivered throughout the week which ranges from Generic Youth Club, Targeted Project Work, training needs and Outreach & Detached youth work; some of which are delivered by myself in the evenings.
What was your route into the company?
My journey within the YMCA started as early as 2004, as a young person who attended the provision and then became a member the opportunities I received during my time were incredible and I have no doubt that they had an influence on my career path.
As a young person who was quite active and participated in a lot of sports, I soon saw myself as someone who would like to coach/teach young people PE & sports. They empowered me to look for opportunities outside of Northern Ireland and I was fortunate to find a summer camp in America which provided me with the opportunity to grow and work with a wide range of young people.
In total, I spent 3 summers in America [equates to 12 months over the 3 years] as a camp counsellor. This role allowed me to make incredible memories but also experiences that shaped me into who I am today; it provided me with the skills and knowledge in working with young people in a person-centred manner, ensuring their needs were met while providing emotional and pastoral support.
In 2017 a Youth Work Studentship Scheme post became available at YMCA Portadown [EA fully funded Community Youth Work Degree & Full-time Employment – 3 years] and it felt right to apply. When I was successful in my application and interview, it felt like I had come full circle from being a young person to starting my youth work journey – that was over 5 years ago.
How long have you been involved in this type of work?
I have now been involved with YMCA Portadown for over 5 years as a trainee youth worker, qualified professional youth worker and now youth work manager.
Where did you work before this?
I worked in various roles within the sport & leisure sector from community sports coach within local community groups & schools delivering a wide range of sports and physical activities, to delivering regional health & wellbeing initiatives to schools across Northern Ireland. I also spent some time as a volunteer football coach which was a great learning experience and would encourage anyone to pop down to their local sports club and volunteer.
What were your favourite subjects in school and why?
It comes as no surprise that I enjoyed PE as I enjoyed the competitive nature of sport. I also enjoyed History, I always had a keen interest in our history and thoroughly enjoyed it during my time in school. Lastly, I enjoyed technology and design, I loved to be hands-on and practical and TD provided me with this during my time in school.
Did you go on to university or further education and what did you study?
After my GCSE years, I left to do a Diploma in Sports Studies in Armagh SRC which provided me with the credits to move to Liverpool and study Sports Education at Edgehill University – I graduated with a 2:1 which I was reasonably pleased with.
Then between 2017 and 2020, I completed my professional qualification in BSc Community Youth work graduating with a first-class degree honours [I set myself a challenge to beat my previous classification].
Did you always have this career in mind?
When I left school I would be lying if I said I did. Though, something I always share with young people which I do believe in; is that if you have something in mind that you would like to do, go for it! If it doesn’t work out it will lead you to your path where you are truly meant to be.
Having a career is a journey, sometimes we deviate from our path but we always find our way back on the road towards the destination, where we’re meant to be. I believe this to be true for me and my role today.
What do you enjoy about it?
My role consists of working with young people which can be challenging, though, incredibly rewarding. I enjoy the diverse nature of the work that we do, providing life-changing opportunities for the young people of Portadown.
We are taking a group to Washington DC for a week at the end of July and I am thoroughly excited about the experience the young people will have.
Furthermore, I enjoy journeying alongside young people supporting them to become the best versions of themselves whether that’s becoming a young leader, volunteer, youth leader or reaching their goals.
What are the main skills required for it?
Being a good communicator and having effective interpersonal skills is important both when working alongside young people and managing staff. To be resilient and reflective; when in a role which works directly with people it is important that we are resilient, things may not always go as planned for a number of reasons and having the ability to reflect will empower you in your role to learn and grow which will best equip you to support yourself to support others.
What would your advice be to anyone thinking of it as a career?
If you are looking to get into youth work, volunteer at your local youth centre and be prepared to have fun and be challenged.
All youth centres do incredible work, you’ll be challenged and supported with a lot of amazing opportunities – our volunteers are the backbone of all that we do.
How do you relax when you’re not working?
I have two Cocker Spaniel dogs, Lady & Ember. I love playing ball with them on the field and find it relaxing and a way to switch off from the pressures of life. I’m also an avid Liverpool FC fan and love to follow them at home, in Anfield and in Europe – though, I’m not sure this is always relaxing.
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