More than a game

Zahra's story: PL Inspires was the motivation I needed

By Mark Orlovac 28 Jul 2023
Zahra,PL Inspires

Premier League programme has helped Bolton student develop a passion for environmental issues

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To mark this year's Premier League Inspires Challenge, we look at how the programme, which is supported by the Professional Footballers' Association, helps 11 to 25-year-olds fulfil their potential.

Zahra (Bolton)

Bolton student Zahra struggled to engage in lessons and was often a disruptive influence in class. 

Zahra was identified as someone who could benefit from the targeted work of Premier League Inspires, which works with young people at risk of not reaching their potential to help develop their skills. 

And with the guidance and support of Bolton Wanderers in the Community (BWitC), her attitude to learning has completely changed.

"I was a troublemaker," she says. "I wasn't a fan of going to lessons. I didn't really care about education, I'd misbehave and have problems with my focus."

BWitC first met Zahra at the start of this year, when they began to work with Bolton Muslim Girls’ School for the first time. 

“I was in an IT lesson and the teacher said I had been chosen for a Premier League programme,” she says. “I thought they were all going to be good students - and I'm not good!” 

Personal development

From the first session, Bolton PL Inspires project officer Jordan Morris began to work on Zahra’s confidence, teamwork and resilience. 

And when Zahra and her friends started to develop ideas for the annual Premier League Inspires Challenge, a social action project which this year focuses on the environment and sustainability, she found herself excelling as a group leader. 

"It was really fun," she says. "They made me feel like I had a sense of belonging because I had a team, they chose me for any jobs to do. I felt more confident."

Zahra and her team came up with an idea to turn part of the school yard into an eco-friendly garden, a safe space for young people to go to have time out and a place to relax. 

Their social action idea, and that of other teams around the country, were celebrated at a special event at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. The event was one of five held regionally to allowed young people to meet other PL Inspires participants as well as taking part in fun activities and workshops. 

Proud to help local community

"I have learned so much about environmental issues," she says. "Now when I see a problem, I automatically want to change it. Being part of a project to help the local community makes me feel so proud."

And from being someone who would get regular detentions, Zahra now has a radically different outlook to learning. 

"This project is inspiring young people who don't usually have a voice to use it in a positive way,” she says. “Before I wanted to get a job just for money but now, I want a job that's more caring about the environment.

"I realised that if I can lead this project and make it what it is now, then I can study and make my exam results higher. It was that motivation I needed. My grades have improved massively.

"I am a new person compared to the one I was in September. I’ve done this project; I've made posters and delivered a Dragon's Den pitch. That's amazing. It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

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