Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2019-20: Keith’s Commendation is for his work at HMYOI Wetherby, over more than 40 years, including over a decade as a volunteer on the Army Cadet Programme, and is viewed by many of the young men there as “the grandad they never had”.
Keith started working at HMYOI Wetherby in 1978, and for the last ten years his relationship with the establishment has continued as a volunteer, leading and delivering a drill course for young offenders.
At 71, Keith “still shows a great deal of commitment a passion” says initial nominator and Army Cadets Officer Michael Colley.
“He has a plethora of experience when it comes to Military based foot drill. He is intelligent, loyal, dedicated to those he looks after and has a proactive caring approach with sound unbiased judgements to all decisions he makes. He volunteers his free time whatever the circumstances fully understanding the needs of the young people he cares for. You can see him spending time listening to and giving advice where required. It has been said by those he cares for that he is like the ‘granddad they never had!’”
Michael describes Keith’s teaching style as “methodical, with elements of his humour, and full of positive energy to the people he teaches which in turn has a positive impact on the young people’s learning experience. [He] is a real role model to the young people.”
Daily duties include teaching up to a dozen young people “foot drill and the finer points of social etiquette traditions and history in such a manner that young people can understand and relate to.” Michael also says Keith “ensures all the young people pass the drill elements of the course first time. He has provided displays of this foot drill at the open days and directly to parents, senior managers and high-profile visitors to the Establishment… The standard is outstanding and the young people show off skills and uniforms to their families with obvious pride.”
So far Keith has seen over 175 young offenders through the course. Butler Trust Local Champion and People Hub Manager Laura Cox adds that Keith “displays selfless commitment to HMYOI Wetherby, not only giving up his own time to support the cadet programme but also assisting with POELT (Prison Officer Entry Level Training) pass offs, the fire cadet programme, and other public duties that arise. He is well known and well-liked by both staff and young people and sets a good example to others.”
Several of those young people shared often moving testimony to the impact of Keith’s voluntary work:
“I would like to say a big thank you for all your time and support you stuck your neck out to keep me on track on the course. This has been the biggest part of my life.” (NB*)
“I would like to say thank you for everything you have done for me and making my time here as easy as possible and also having me on the Army course it’s been a real pleasure and I’ve loved being on it every second and I hope to progress and pursue my career in the Royal Engineers.” (CO*)
“I am 100% sure that everything you have taught me will help me get into the Fusiliers in the short future, I have really enjoyed my time on the ACF (Army Cadet Force) and I am looking forward to putting what I learned to the test on the outside.” (MS*)
“Thank you for sending me the certificate for my green card, my mum and my nanny were really proud. it has been going really well at home. I go running about three to four times a week.”
“I would like to say again a massive thank you to you all you have done a lot for me and my family at the same time. You are all amazing people, you deserve a lot more than a thank you.” (BH*)
Governing Governor Andrew Dickinson adds that “Keith has been a real assist to HMYOI Wetherby in aiding the trainees to turn their lives around. He has worked over and above to fully support the trainees to ensure they can see their true potential. Keith is a volunteer at Wetherby and he has worked here for over 40 years giving his complete dedication. We look forward to his continued success and the impact he has on the young people here at Wetherby.”
Keith himself is eloquent about his work: “I really enjoy this work, both to maintain contact with former colleagues and also to work with the young people. Doing the drill work with the cadets is really rewarding. It is great to see them progress through the course and help them to see an alternative way of doing things in life.” He adds, poignantly, that:
“It has been said by some of the cadets on the course that I am like the Grandad that many of them have never had. Although I find this amusing, it is a sad fact that many of the young people who I meet through this volunteer work have come through the care system or have never had positive male role models in their young lives.”
He concludes: “I am very proud to have served the country as a member of the Royal Observer Corps but also to have continued to use this knowledge and experience in later life in such a positive way.”
* Names have been anonymised.
With thanks to HMYOI Wetherby, especially initial nominator and Army Cadets Officer, Butler Trust Local Champion and People Hub Manager Laura Cox, offenders NB, CO, MS, and BH, and Governing Governor Andrew Dickinson, for their contributions.