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.
Ella (Man Utd)
Sitting in the stands at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, 15-year-old student Ella is confidently telling the life-changing story of her time with Premier League Inspires and Manchester United Foundation, the charitable arm of Manchester United.
Ella was part of a special PL Inspires celebration event where she met other students from around the country and showcased her team’s social-action project on sustainability and the environment.
These are things that just two years ago, Ella could not have imagined doing.
“Since primary school I've been a very anxious person,” she says. “I didn't really like speaking to people or putting myself out there but I have, with the help of some amazing people.
“Working with Premier League Inspires has given me so many opportunities to do things like this, to come out of my shell and try to fight a lot of the anxiety that I'd usually face.
"It's been an incredible change"
“I don't think I would have even wanted to be on a trip like this or go anywhere outside a couple of years ago. It's been such an incredible change.”
In 2021, Ella was selected by Dixon Brooklands Academy in Manchester as someone who would benefit from being on the PL Inspires programme, which is targeted at young people at risk of not reaching their potential.
She had been struggling with her mental health, while low confidence and low self-esteem led to her being withdrawn and not having a voice in school.
By offering support, guidance and direction with MU Foundation, Ella has been able to develop social, employability and life skills that are not only helping her now but will also provide strong foundations for the future.
“My anxiety is a lot more manageable,” she says.
“Things like this make you a stronger person and it gives you the ability to deal with the challenges that you face.
“The programme helps you feel comfortable. It's not something we're made to do, it's something that everyone just enjoys."
Learning about climate change
Like the other schools at the Etihad Stadium, Ella and her team have been working on the latest instalment of the PL Inspires Challenge, a social-action project that this year is focused on environmental sustainability.
The Dixon Brooklands Academy team came up with the idea of writing a series of short stories aimed at educating children about global warming issues.
“I wasn’t really centred on subjects like climate change and the environment,” she says. “You know about them but a lot of the time it takes something like this to really feel a passion for it and a passion to try to make a change.
“Just making small changes to live more sustainably... it's something you don't really think about until you are in a group making a plan and trying to work out how we can be better.
“We wanted to teach kids about climate change in a way that isn't scary. The way we have worked together, the conversations we've had, the way everyone's put something in, it's been such an incredible opportunity. It's incredible that we've put this together in less than a year.
“Everything that MU Foundation have done with our school, with us, has been so helpful and the fact that we can give back in this way by showing what we can do, it's been amazing.”
And for Ella, having that support of the Foundation coaches has been key to thriving with PL Inspires – a programme that is now very close to her heart.
“For me, PL Inspires is about being proud of who you are while also knowing that you have a community around you,” she says. “You always have people to fall back on.
"There's something for everyone. We've been writing, drawing, editing, there's always going to be something you can do to make a difference.
“That doesn't mean you have to change yourself or be in an uncomfortable situation. It's about realising the talent and strengths that you have.”