THE BLOG

Find Your Debbie Page and Unlock Your #DoubleGold

29/08/2014 08:25 BST | Updated 28/10/2014 09:59 GMT

What makes me smile? This does: youth unemployment is down. In fact it's down a lot. You probably knew that, as it was reported everywhere this month, but my charity, The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, works with thousands of unemployed young people who need to hear it so let me say it again: there's a lot more 16 to 24-year-olds now getting a salary than there were before!

And for what it's worth, in my opinion, the fall's come from incredibly hard work from a bunch of determined young people, as well as great commitment from our politicians, business leaders, entrepreneurs, a multitude of support groups and the type of volunteers who are committed to getting people into work.

But is it job done? Without doubt the figures say we're going in the right direction, but I've got some bits of paper in front of me now which tell me there's a long, long way to go yet. My charity has just carried out some research on young people who've been labelled as 'NEETs'. It's a horrible term I know - and in case you didn't know, it means Not in Employment, Education or Training - but they're exactly the type of people we work with, and we need to understand how they're thinking in 2014 in order to help them. We spoke to nearly 400 of these jobless 16 to 24-year-olds who weren't in school and weren't learning a skill, and despite that drop in unemployment, the results show nearly 20% of these young people who are NEET are resigned to never getting a full-time job. To put that in context, that's around 200 thousand young British people who share that opinion. It goes on; an estimated 100 thousand or so think they'll be signing on for another five to 10 years - while nearly one in ten are convinced they'll be on benefits for at least 10-20 years.

That's a generation of young people growing up with no hope. And believe me, I've seen it; no hope breeds failure.

I nearly failed. Without doubt I was one of those young people with no hope. But looking back, I realise I was given something so many people don't get - I was given self-belief. And that was the fan that flamed my determination.

This week, I'm marking a very special 10 year anniversary. A decade ago, on a warm summer's evening in Athens, I did something special - something, that when I was a kid stumbling my way through school and care homes, nobody (least of all me) ever dreamed I'd be capable of.... that is, nobody apart from a lady called Debbie Page. Debbie was my PE teacher, and what I achieved in Greece, with my arms in the air and my shocked expression was winning the 800m. Five days later I achieved Double Gold in the 1500m, for me that was even more than my dream come true.

I was living the dream. I mean, I was the only mixed race girl from a village in Kent. At school I always felt I was behind, and it was Debbie Page who saw something in me and for the first time I thought I could actually be good at something.

The double gold is part of my story, and it changed my life.

You don't have to be an Olympic champion to succeed; but you do need a Debbie Page - a role model. So many of the young people we work with don't have that someone - although so many do, like a caring mum, loving dad, brother, uncle, teacher or friend, but are too afraid to break from the cycle of what their mates might think, or what their family might say. That's what my charity does. It puts young people in touch with strong mentors who help them find their self-belief. We're not THE solution, but we're part of it. We're trying to break the vicious circle these people are in, and give them something to feel proud of. We want them to find and celebrate their own #DoubleGold - and to date, our success rate is as promising as the fall in unemployment; 70% of 16 to 24-year-olds who go through our flagship Get On Track programme are in employment, education or training within three months of completing.

My #DoubleGold continues. Way, way before Athens, I think I was lucky to know what I wanted. I was a newspaper girl and then worked behind the till at a newsagent that back then when I was 16 I said I would buy. Today I own that building and am turning it into a café all about local people and local produce. It is now named Café 1809 after my Athens race number. Funny how life turns out when you work hard, have self-belief and motivation.

I would love this week to be about people sharing their own #DoubleGold because celebrating achievements fuels self-belief. Get on twitter and start telling us what you've done, whether it's winning Olympic Gold, passing your driving test or cooking your first meal without setting off the smoke alarm. And please, please come and look at the work we do at www.damekellyholmestrust.org - we want to help as many people as possible find their own #DoubleGold, and start unlocking what they're truly capable of.