Like most stories associated with how young people get involved in gangs, Gavin’s childhood was troubled. Growing up with a violent father, he lived in refuges for much of his early life, only able to turn to his mother for support.
However, despite his traumatic experiences leading to life as a gang member where he sought identity, he takes full responsibility for his choices without assigning blame. He is thankful to his Mum and to God for a second chance in life, which demonstrates that behind his past troubles there is a human being.
Reformed character – the people who shaped Gavin McKenna
Breaking the stranglehold of gang culture, which had gripped Gavin firmly, Colm Witty, the director and founder of Air Football, became a key figure in Gavin’s life. At the age of 18, Colm took Gavin under his wing, giving him a place in his football organisation, mentoring and supporting him with his anger and lifestyle.
Eventually, Gavin was given a chance to become the captain of a team Colm had put together, giving Gavin a sense of identity, belonging and leadership.
Colm also gave Gavin the opportunity to share his story with other young people, which led to him working as a football coach for Air Football, coaching troubled children who struggled with schooling.
The impact of Colm, and his colleague Mog, on Gavin’s life quickly became tangible as they helped him to access services such as mental health support and housing, which led to Gavin securing his own flat, getting on a university course and landing a coaching job.
In a professional capacity, Gavin has become a leading light in his field and has worked with Essex County Council serving in different roles, which have included:
- Working in a children’s home as a residential worker and gang mentor.
- Working in family solutions, a Tier 3 service for providing ‘Effective Support for Children and Families in Essex.’
In these roles, Gavin has liaised with many influential members in society including social workers and local authorities. His professionalism quickly led him to introduce his very own gang intervention programme, an initiative praised by Ofsted following an inspection.
Gavin has gone on to apply his past to the future, with a vision to reunite families affected by gang culture. Gavin’s specialist knowledge has seen him deliver expert, informative and inspirational training sessions to many professionals working with young people.
His positioning within a multi-service agency has given Gavin a valuable insight into how schools, social services, youth offending teams (YOT), the police, sexual health practitioners, mental health practictioners and housing services operate, all of which have direct contact with young people on a daily basis.
Gavin plays a key role in society and provides youth work professionals, local authorities and other key organisations with training that carries truth, reality and practicality that will challenge, empower and inspire.