‘Christmas came early’ for the students at Brian Jackson College – that was the sentiment of headteacher Jacqueline Green, when local businessman Tim Mercer recently dropped in.

The tech boss of Elland-headquartered Vapour collected up more than a dozen refurbished laptops and handed them over to the youngsters at their Lincoln Street centre, as an early ‘Christmas present’. They’ll now be used in lessons at the Huddersfield and Heckmondwike sites, and will be made available for home study as and when the pupils need them.

But there could be even more to come from the collaboration, it has since emerged.

“We’re sadly all too aware of the digital divide that continues to put young people’s future potential at risk,” commented Vapour’s CEO Tim Mercer. “And with no way of knowing if or when the UK will face further lockdown restrictions in 2021, we wanted to make even a small pledge to help these young people continue their learning – whatever Covid-19 throws at them.

“However, I found the visit to Brian Jackson College even more inspiring than I thought I would. There was a great buzz about the place and a real family feel, with no judgment. So, I quickly began to think what more we could do.”

With an ethos of providing care, guidance and support for young people experiencing difficulties with mainstream school education, the College was born out of a 2001 project designed to meet the needs of students in years 10 and 11 (Key Stage 4). Now a not-for-profit run by Yorkshire Children’s Centre, its mission is to offer a fresh start to all students, to nurture their self-belief and aspirations that encourage positive progression.

Jacqui Green elaborated: “Our students have a range of social, emotional and mental health needs, and everyone is different. We work hard to break down any barriers that could obstruct their development and explore multiple ways to engage them with academic and vocational learning, as well as experiential therapy.

“Our vision is a future where all young people can achieve their full potential in life. But as part of a registered charity, we rely greatly on fundraising efforts, beneficiaries and donations. We sometimes even struggle to get hold of workbooks and pens. So, when we met Tim, we were blown away by the kindness of the tech donation. And I’m told that he was so impressed by what we’re doing at the College – and some of the students he met on the day – that he has even more ideas to help us in 2021.”

Tim plans to revisit the College in early 2021 with further supplies and hopes to spend more time with the youngsters to talk to them about some of the difficult choices you can make to change the path your life may go down.

“Even though I was only with Jacqui and her team for a short while, I felt really connected to the centre and what they are achieving with limited services. I’d love to do more to help and think more businesses should do the same,” he said. 

“Mainstream school may not be for these kids, but it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve great things, with the right environment and support. My father died when I was young and we didn’t have a lot. I didn’t particularly enjoy school and I joined the Army to get away.

“Hopefully some of the students might relate to my experiences. And if not, I’m happy to roll my sleeves up and just help out when it comes to making lunch!”

Jacqui concluded: “We’re beyond grateful for Tim’s generosity and proud of our students for the impact they made. Yes, their behaviour can be challenging, but it just goes to show how special our offering is – and only a small proportion of the population knows what we’re up to!”

Receiving referrals from Kirklees schools every week, Brian Jackson College has capacity for 80 students across its Huddersfield and Heckmondwike sites. For further information, visit Yorkshire Children’s Centre – and watch this space to see what happens next thanks to this Vapour collaboration!

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