Motherwell & Scotland star Stephen O’Donnell backs ScottishPower Foundation project to help transform young people’s lives

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The Motherwell full-back visited a Street League session in Shawlands helping young people boost their job prospects

Scotland international Stephen O’Donnell has backed ScottishPower’s Foundation Project to help transform young people’s lives.

The Motherwell captain attended one of Street League’s ‘Transforming Lives’ sessions in Shawlands last week, to see first-hand the work the charity does to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to boost their employment prospects and education.

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Street League is a charity devoted to changing the lives of disadvantaged young people through the power of football.

Stephen O'Donnell in action for Scotland against Czech Republic.Stephen O'Donnell in action for Scotland against Czech Republic.
Stephen O'Donnell in action for Scotland against Czech Republic.

The project, funded by the ScottishPower Foundation, works with up to 500 secondary school pupils from across Scotland most at risk of future unemployment and has bases in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Ayrshire, Edinburgh and Dundee.

O’Donnell, who has played 24 times for Scotland, was impressed to hear what difference the initiative has already made to children and reckons he is a prime example of how applying yourself can take you to unexpected heights.

The 29-year-old defender said: “I came along because the work Street League is doing for young kids is brilliant. It gives them an opportunity to come out and try and socialise.

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Football is very good for your social skills, that’s one of the great things with sport in general. Being part of a team environment you get to socialise and get together and hopefully bring you out of your shell if you find yourself in one and if not, just encourage you and have a good day.

“I think especially over the last couple of years it’s been difficult for a lot of kids with Covid and things, but these charities are crucial to keep people that are maybe a bit more vulnerable than others and give them an opportunity to push on and have good lives.

Motherwell defender and Scotland internationalist Stephen O’Donnell attended a Street League session in Shawlands last weekMotherwell defender and Scotland internationalist Stephen O’Donnell attended a Street League session in Shawlands last week
Motherwell defender and Scotland internationalist Stephen O’Donnell attended a Street League session in Shawlands last week | SNS Group

“I’ve never had the most ability but I’ve found myself working and applying myself at football and have managed to carve out a career and represent my country, which is no greater honour.

“That comes from hard work and dedication and I think if you apply yourself to anything, no matter your strengths or weaknesses, you can be successful.

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“Hopefully the kids here will take away some of that and kick on and be positive influences within their community and society. That’s all we can look for.”

Steven Jardine, Head of Operations for Scotland, explained how Street League was formed and the impact the charity is now having on youngsters in various parts of Scotland.

He said: “Street League was formed approximately 14 years ago by an A&E doctor in London.

“He was working Friday night and Saturday night shifts and was recognising that a lot of young men were coming in under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The common ground he had was to talk about football.

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Motherwell defender and Scotland internationalist Stephen O’Donnell attended a Street League session in Shawlands last weekMotherwell defender and Scotland internationalist Stephen O’Donnell attended a Street League session in Shawlands last week
Motherwell defender and Scotland internationalist Stephen O’Donnell attended a Street League session in Shawlands last week | SNS Group

“Through the years the organisation has developed and we’ve started delivering qualifications, we’ve switched our focus on to finding sustainable employment opportunities for young people and that now brings us to today where we’re working alongside the ScottishPower Foundation and using their funding to access young people who are at risk of disengaging from school.

“By giving them a bit of support, increasing their engagement and focusing on raising attainment while they’re in school, but also introducing Street League to them as a potential pathway for when they leave school as a positive destination.”

“We know that young people want to come along to Street League because it’s fun and engaging and like anything if you’re engaged in a subject then you’re more likely to embrace it and give your all.

“We know that if we can bring these young people along in a nice, relaxed environment and focus on a bit of fun, football and fitness then that allows us to start talking about personal development and preparation for job interviews, the sort of things you would normally struggle to have that conversation with young people.”

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Sessions include employability work such as mock interviews, employer expectation preparation and customer service scenario training. Each day is finished off with a sport or fitness session.

SNS Group

The ScottishPower Foundation was established in 2013 to support charitable causes such as Street League’s ‘Transforming Lives’ project.

Street League was one of 16 charities across the UK to benefit from almost £1.2million funding distributed by the ScottishPower Foundation last year.

Melanie Hill, Executive Officer and Trustee of the ScottishPower Foundation added: “Street League has provided support for young people who have, for whatever reason, been excluded from normal school activities.

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“As a result, Street League are doing is working on employability skills and mock interviews and then coupling that with sport and what that allows young people taking part is to make healthy choices when it comes to food, concentration and leads them into other positive destinations at the end such as full-time employment or college work etc.

“I’m so proud the ScottishPower Foundation funding has made the project possible and will create a meaningful and lasting legacy for everyone who takes part.”

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