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Early Intervention - the Key to Success

We are a youth leadership charity based in Camberwell, SE London that exists to develop leadership potential in boys aged 8-16 of African and Afro- Caribbean heritage. We work with boys living in deprived areas and at risk of social exclusion. Since 2007 we have mentored more than 200 boys, trained 60 parents in About Boys Courses and provided our in-school programme to 20 schools. 


kayaks polaroidOur Aims 
  • To motivate each boy to achieve his own leadership potential    
  • To broaden their vision and let in the opportunities of the wider world
  • To support each boy in achieving the highest standards in school
  • To build each boy's life and social skills
  • To help each boy appreciate the importance of learning 
Our Programme
  • Structured leadership activities
  • Education support
  • Strong mentoring personnel
  • Powerful caring ethos
  • Broader horizons and opportunities


  • SYLA Management and Staff
  • Trustees
  • Volunteers
  • Who founded SYLA?

coming soon

Ros Griffiths, Chief Executive

Bio to follow soon





Beverley Wong, School & Family Liaison Officer

Beverley joined SYLA in February 2015. She has overall responsibility for recruitments, liaising & marketing with schools and parent engagement at SYLA. She has extensive educational experience that includes teaching, parent governor, chair of governors, school admission, coaching and training individuals and groups.




Joni Rogan 

Joni Rogan, Education Coordinator

Joni joined the charity in September 2015 to coordinate all the educational activities, track the boys’ progress, and to recruit and manage tutors and mentors. 





Orrel Lawrence 

Orrel Lawrence, Leadership Coordinator

Orrel started to work with the Education and Leadership Team in February 2015. He leads the Coding Club sessions, the Duke of Edinburgh project and also helps running the Literacy Project and Saturday Academy. 




Konroy Swaby 

Konroy Swaby, Leadership Instructor

Konroy has been working with Southside on the leadership team in various roles since the beginning of 2015: Ngazi programme, Duke of Edinburgh, Saturday Academy and Holiday Programme. 




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Divanio Crooks, Leadership Instructor

Divanio has been working at Southside as a part of the leadership team in various roles since the beginning of 2015. He has been the leader of the Coding Club and supports the delivery of the Leadership, Education and Sport sessions to secondary and primary boys.

Our Trustees come from a wide variety of professions including education, government, consultancy and the law. The trustees are responsible for making sure the Academy is well run and achieves its objectives.


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Francis Evans QC: Chair

Francis is a practicing barrister and was a part-time Crown Court Judge for twenty seven years till 2016. Grateful for his enormous good fortune in life, he is thankful for the opportunity to assist other black males achieve their full potential.




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Jennie Hall: Treasurer

Jennie is a civil servant. Her current job involves finance in the Department for Communities and Local Government. In addition to SYLA, Jennie does voluntary work for other organisations.



Chris1Fin cropChris Davies: Secretary

Chris is a management consultant, advising on strategy development, business planning and performance improvement. His main concern is to see young people achieve their full potential in both their personal and professional lives. 




Samuel Cumpsty

Samuel is an international development specialist managing strategy development and performance management of poverty eradication programmes in Africa. He is passionate about ending inequalities and injustice in all forms.



Mark Hughes websiteMark Hughes

Mark is a senior economic adviser, a founder director of Sustainable Energy 24, and Treasure Governor of St Saviours CoE school in Herne Hill. He joined SYLA as Trustee in September 2013 and sits on the finance commitee.



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Nat Miller

Nat Miller is a businessman/entrepreneur and an appointed member of the HM Courts & Tribunal Service, First-Tier Tribunal. He joined the board of SYLA in 2012 because he believes in the strategic aims of SYLA and that we all have a responsibility to put something back into our community.


Annie Baxter

Annie Baxter
Annie has worked in senior communications and marketing roles at Google for the past eight years, in Asia Pacific, the United States, and most recently Europe. She’s experienced in developing communications strategies, managing crisis communications, training media spokespeople, and overseeing community investment and relations programs. 



Joel - "I volunteer on the Saturday academy and work with the secondary school aged boys in education, leadership and sports. I love volunteering there because you can see the difference you're making first hand. When I am not at Southside, I am in central London working as a Director in a private tutoring company. My advice to the young leaders is: always try your best to do the right thing, have fun, work hard and grab every opportunity that comes to you".





I volunteer at SYLA on Tuesdays, with the Literacy group, and also on Thursdays. I initially began to volunteer at SYLA because of my support for their vision. From day one at SYLA I have felt completely at home. The enthusiasm and energy of the boys is utterly infectious and my visits on Tuesdays and Thursdays are the highlights of my week.



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Dennis - "As black man and a leader in my community, I am responsible for setting the tone for those who come after me, which why I wanted to help give something back and it is with grassroots organisations such as SYLA is where I believe I can make a difference. My time and investment in these young black men is about challenging stereotypes and creating solutions to change our community for the better".





We also work in partnership with Tutor Fair, who helped us find mentors for one-to-one support in Maths and English.


Interview with Andy Walker, co-founder of SYLA


Southside Young Leader’s Academy was founded in 2007 by Andy Walker, a BBC and Channel 4 television producer who created educational programs. He was helped by his wife Pat Walker, a primary head teacher. Andy and Pat have now stepped down as members of the board but they stay quite involved and active in the growth of the organization.


Could you describe your path leading up to this charity? Why did you feel it was important to found it?

Pat and I were both working in the education field and felt quite passionate about it. In addition to my job at the beginning of the 70’s, I started to help a youth club to get better organized. On Saturdays we would take children aged 8 to 11 out of London, or they would go create their own space in Dog Kennel Hill Adventure Playground. It was great to see them discover endless possibilities of creativity, from a camp to an imaginary ship. They were learning a lot about their own potential.

As a head teacher, Pat had pupils in school who were challenging and we were thinking about new solutions to help them. Most of these children were boys of African or Afro-Caribbean heritage; their parents faced specific problems and even if their sons had huge potential, they were just not progressing at school.

Then in 2007 I heard an interview of Ray Lewis, a Church minister and prison governor who wanted to break the vicious circle leading black males to prison.  He visited an organization in Baton Rouge called Young Leaders Academy, which provided support for young African American to develop leadership abilities and become productive members of the society. Ray Lewis decided to open the same kind of academy in East London in 2002. Pat and I went to see him and were very impressed, so we wanted to do the same in South London. We got the blue prints of his program but Ray hadn’t set a precise strategy yet, so we had to think about it ourselves.


And which objectives did you set up then ? What did you want to achieve ?

Well the first thing we wanted to achieve, really, was change. There was a situation that just wasn’t right and needed to change. The pupils that Pat was worried about were at risk of exclusion from school, and it was difficult for their parents to put them back on the right track: they were poor families, sometimes with a parent missing, the other one involved in shift jobs.

You know, when you lack of nothing it's easier to have self-esteem; your parents pay for public school, they can provide any material you need, like the most performant computer on the market…But these boys didn’t have that and they needed support to raise their self-esteem, which is really the key to success, because when you have it you can achieve anything. It communicates to others.

So our goal was to show them that they had potential, by creating a structure where they could learn new skills.

We also wanted to find out what was working with these boys, so it could be useful for schools and other educational institutions.


How did it start then? Did you find many people to work with you?

Obviously at the beginning we didn’t have neither money nor place to meet, so we had to work on that first. We wrote an application to Awards for All and we were lucky to get our fist grant this way. Then Pat found a place in a school she knew. We hired our first Senior Leader, James Quaynor, who created activities for the boys with two assistant volunteers. He had previously worked with Ray Lewis and got the program going very successfully. We went from helping a dozen of boys to more than twenty every week. And gradually we were able to hire more people, and provide some training.


And at that time, what kind of activities did you create for the boys?

At first we offered activities on Saturdays only : sport games, drills to get them used to instructions within a team…This was very important, because many of them didn’t accept authority. The instructors also set up a game called « hotseat » : each boy would stand up and talk about school, or his family, and the others would then give their opinion. This way they learned about speech and communication skills, but it also helped them establish who they were. And finally we found volunteers to tutor them in reading and maths as well, on Tuesday and Thursday nights.


Your charity seems to have grown quite quickly! But were there any big challenges that you faced when you built it?

I think the biggest challenge is to raise money, because it is a competitive business and some organizations are much bigger. We actually had a funding crisis at some point, when we lost a grant. So we constantly have to show how impactful and innovative our charity is.


Is it the advice you would give to other individuals thinking about setting up their own philanthropic organization?

Yes, but mostly, you’ve got to have the passion, and be very committed. Perseverance is key, because you will get turned down at one point or another. So you have to present an attractive idea, with realistic goals, and show that you know what you are doing. As a leader, it is also important to have a vision and to be able to communicate it to people.


Finally, could you tell us one of the most memorable moments you have from your work at SYLA ?

Well it would be mostly about the outdoor activities, because it’s always wonderful to see how excited the boys are when they discover a new interest or make new experiences. When they go sailing, for example, they are suddenly in charge of a boat and they have to show leadership and keep a cool head. They realize then that they are able to be in charge.

But overall, the most important for me was taking a boy who was risking exclusion and seeing him progress well, and use his full potential.  This is the main goal of our charity.








Southside Young Leaders' Academy


54 Camberwell Road
London, SE5 0EW
020 7701 9055

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