Boxer, social entrepreneur and campaigner Stephen Addison [pictured] didn’t pull his punches when he brought his message of authenticity and self-belief to one of the biggest and most successful sixth forms in south London and Kent.
Twenty-seven-year-old Stephen, a former amateur boxing champion, spoke to 600 of Christ the King Sixth Form’s 4,000 students over the course of two visits. Some 1,000 young people from Christ the King progress to university each year, many to elite Russell Group institutions.
Stephen’s sessions were part of a series of special events at Christ the King Sixth Form examining spirituality in the curriculum. The Sixth Form is a Catholic institution, although it welcomes students of all faiths and none.
Stephen is honest about the how his own life took some ‘wrong turns’ and is dedicating his life to ensuring that others don’t make the same mistakes.
His Essex-based project ‘Box Up Crime’ uses sports, in particular boxing, as a tool to inspire, educate and develop young people.
He said: ‘A lot of the Christ the King Sixth Form students reminded me of myself at their age. They all live in the community in south London.’
Stephen believes that low self-esteem and lack of confidence is holding back many young people. ‘I want young people to learn how to be someone, not just to fit in. Too often, they feel they have to construct an identity for themselves that isn’t ‘them’. They’re wearing a mask.’
He lays much of the blame with the proliferation of social media and the pressure to present a ‘perfect’ life to friends and peers.
He recalls: 'We had Facebook but it wasn’t as full on as it is now, with Instagram and Snapchat; they really shape people’s behaviour. We had to log on, but technologies have changed so fast; now, if you’re connected to wifi, you’re online.'
For Stephen, faith has been the key to the turn-round in his own life:
‘I need to be connected to God. I need that moral discipline. A lot of young people have no discipline structures. Only faith can bring that type of discipline and show you what’s moral and what isn’t.’
Box-Up runs boxing sessions in community sessions all over London and the South East and Stephen says young men aren’t the only ones to attend. ‘Girls have always been interested in boxing. We run mixed sessions now.’
Christ the King Collegiate Principal Rob McAuliffe said:
‘It was a pleasure to welcome Stephen to Christ the King Sixth Form and his honesty about how he turned his own life around was truly inspirational. Our students are destined for university and professional careers, and they recognised the important messages Stephen shared with them. Stephen’s insights made quite an impact.'