Chris Nicol, who receives a BSc Hons Community Youth Work degree today, is a committed advocate for young people and the support services they need to help them grow and develop as young adults.
“We need to be champions of youth work,” says Chris, one of a new generation of Magee campus graduate community workers who strive to bring hope and direction to young people across the North West, many of whom are troubled and disaffected.
“A champion is someone who believes in himself when others don’t. I got my act together and focused. I tapped into the knowledge and resources that were available at the University of Ulster at Magee and through the WELB too. And I began to achieve.”
Chris (30) is married with a young daughter. Originally from Galliagh, he now lives in Strathfoyle. He receives his degree at a graduation ceremony in the Millennium Forum. After 10 years as a youth worker at various levels, he is a familiar face to thousands, from the Bogside and Clooney to Limavady and Strabane. He is now Western Education and Library Board (WELB) Youth Service Area Youth Worker for Strabane.
The backdrop to his own life has given him a deep understanding of youth problems, and theory and practice he experienced at Magee and at the WELB have equipped him with skills to link with young people, build esteem and articulate their needs. Aged 19 and jobless, Chris helped out at youth clubs to top up his Job Seekers’ Allowance income. He realised youth work was what he wanted to do and started to study for qualifications.
“I felt really supported at Magee. To somebody like me, doing a 14,000 word dissertation is a huge challenge but my lecturers, Breda Friel and Sean Gallagher were behind me all the way. I have turned my life around and my focus now is on encouraging young people to believe in themselves and to be an advocate for them and the support that they need. I try to be a positive role model for them.”