Published Friday, 08 February 2013
Thomas Turley with teens from Ardoyne Youth Club. (© PA)
The money is part of a £1m grant from the Big Lottery to help teenagers in deprived areas of Belfast off the streets and into further education.
A judge ordered Thomas Turley to take part in activities at the Flax Street youth club, and the 29-year-old said it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
"I used to be one of these young people, hanging about with nothing to do and no hope in sight. I ended up hanging about on the streets taking drugs and drinking. I got involved in rioting because I was attracted to the adrenaline and the buzz," he said.
"There was no one there to tell me to stop and I just didn't care about anything, so I just went for it. I was given a community service order and referred to this youth club, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
"They showed me that I could make something of myself if I got my head down and I went on to get qualifications in youth work at university. I came back to work in this community and give something back and show other young people that they can do the same with their lives."
The club received £469,845 which will help fund accredited sport and music courses. The centre is also hoping to train young people as personal trainers and provide suicide awareness workshops.
Mr Turley added: "This is a deprived area where many young people drop out of school and there are issues with young people standing around on street corners drinking and taking drugs and getting involved in anti-social behaviour, which can lead them into low-level crime.
"This project will give them the skills and confidence to change the direction of their lives and make something of themselves."
Young people in the greater Belfast and Lisburn areas can also benefit, as the Colin Glen Trust (CGT) has been awarded £491,122 as part of the same boost.
The CGT will run activities and training course to improve opportunities for young people involved in anti-social behaviour and crime.
CGT chief executive Colin O'Neill said: "This is one of the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland. Young people tend to gather on the streets or in the park and there have been issues here with drinking and drugs.
"There have also been cases where young people have taken bins and set them alight in the park and there have been problems with scrambler bikes and cases of joy riding.
"The social unrest in local communities in Belfast is something that we are aware of when it comes to running this project.
"We will be working across a number of areas, developing relationships with other community organisations working in these communities to target those young people most in need. We want to show young people that rioting, violence and anti-social behaviour are not the right paths."
A total of nine projects that support young people who are at risk, in care, disengaged from education or involved in crime are expected to benefit from the £4.2m Bit Lottery Reaching Out: Empowering Young People programme.
© UTV News