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Olympic star Peter Bol’s fast track to inspire troubled young people

Owen Leonard, May 4, 2022 6:30PM Kids News

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Tokyo Olympics hero Peter Bol, right, and Ahmed Hassan from the organisation Youth Activating Youth, (YAY). Bol has joined the group as an ambassador to help disadvantaged youth. Picture: Nicki Connolly media_cameraTokyo Olympics hero Peter Bol, right, and Ahmed Hassan from the organisation Youth Activating Youth, (YAY). Bol has joined the group as an ambassador to help disadvantaged youth. Picture: Nicki Connolly

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Olympic star Peter Bol plans to spend time at juvenile justice centres to work with troubled youths.

Sudanese-born Bol shot to fame as the fastest Australian 800m athlete in history at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Now Bol has revealed he is joining a Melbourne-based charity in an effort to make a difference off the track.

Athletics - Olympics: Day 9 media_cameraAustralia went wild when Peter Bol won his Men’s 800m semi-final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but Bol plans to make his biggest mark off the track. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images

“Come next year we’ll break records on the track, but I think I’m more excited about breaking records outside of that,” Bol said.

“One of them is the youth justice* system. We want to go in there, hands-on, and not just speak about it, but mentor* the people, be with the people, listen to the people, listen to their stories.’’

Bol hopes to provide mentorship, workshops, and hands-on advice through his new role as an ambassador* for Youth Activating Youth.

Too many young people of multicultural* backgrounds were missing a sense of belonging, he said.

“When you share your voice, you feel like you ­belong,’’ he said. “People listen to you and you’re heard. You’re able to contribute a lot more.”

Peter Bol media_cameraTokyo Olympics hero Peter Bol, right, and Ahmed Hassan from the organisation Youth Activating Youth (YAY). Peter Bol has joined the group which helps disadvantaged youth. Picture: Nicki Connolly

YAY, led by 2022 Young Victorian of the Year Ahmed Hassan, promotes the opportunities available to multicultural children rather than focusing on the “cycle of disadvantage*”.

Mr Hassan said Bol embodied* inspiration and hope.

“The work he’s going to be doing with us is assisting the young people who are most vulnerable*, those people that continue to end up in the justice system, those people that continue to be at risk of coming into contact with the criminal justice system,” Mr Hassan said.

“What Peter is motivated by was, how do you break the cycle, how do we not see young people who are feeling like they don’t belong?’’

Peter Bol media_camera2022 Young Victorian of the Year Ahmed Hassan from Youth Activating Youth, pictured left with Peter Bol at right, said that a lot of people find the Olympian’s hard work on the track a source of inspiration. Bol has joined the charity to become a mentor to troubled youth. Picture: Nicki Connolly

Mr Hassan said troubled youths, including members of the African community, needed encouragement, inspiration and leadership through people who understood them.

“It’s through seeing Peter Bol,’’ he said.

“The work he’s done – the hard work – a lot of people find that as a source of inspiration. A lot of young people look up to him.”

Tokyo 2020 Athletics Day 12 media_cameraBol wants to use his new-found profile for positive societal change and said that young people need to tell their stories and feel heard. Picture: Alex Coppel

Bol, who said he approached YAY and asked for a role in its mission, was excited to use his profile for societal change.

“It’s time to make real changes outside of the track,” he said. “We focus more on the opportunities we can bring, like bringing the community together.

“For the community to grow, for Australia to grow, we need to work together.”

GLOSSARY

  • justice: system of laws and rules designed to protect society
  • mentor: adviser, guide, counsellor, a positive influence
  • ambassador: someone who represents an organisation, group, activity or brand
  • multicultural: relating to different cultures, traditions, religions and races of people
  • disadvantage: circumstances that lower someone’s chances of safety and prosperity
  • embodied: represents particular qualities or ideas
  • vulnerable: in need of special care because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. When did Peter Bol shoot to fame and why?
  2. Who is the 2022 Young Victorian of the Year?
  3. Bol is becoming an ambassador for which organisation?
  4. Where is the charity based?
  5. Who does Bol hope to assist and why?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. What can be done?
Write a list of things that you think make some people feel like they don’t belong. For each item on your list, write down some practical ways that it could be changed or what could be done to solve the problem.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social Capability; Civics and Citizenship

2. Extension
Who inspires you? Write a Kids News article about this person. It can be someone well known, or a person in your school, family or community. The purpose of your article is to help Kids News readers understand what is so great and inspiring about the person you have chosen.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social Capability

VCOP ACTIVITY
Everyone matters!
Have you ever felt like you don’t matter or you don’t belong? Maybe it was just for a moment, maybe it’s been for a while. Well, I am here to say that everyone matters, even if sometimes you might not feel like you do. Peter Bol thinks so too.

“What Peter is motivated by was, how do you break the cycle, how do we not see young people who are feeling like they don’t belong?’’

Sometimes when you feel like nothing matters or no one cares, you can act out and misbehave. This behaviour can get you in trouble, and sometimes that trouble can put you in youth detention (jail for young people, basically). Peter wants to help stop young people taking things too far and getting themselves in trouble.

You can help too.

Think of a time when you have felt like you didn’t belong, or maybe you wished you didn’t exist. Maybe you were embarrassed and wished you could just vanish. Maybe you were being bullied or made a mistake you wish you could take back. It can feel pretty rubbish.

What helps you feel better?

Try and make a list of at least three things that make you feel better when you are feeling pretty upset or worthless.

Join up with three other people and together put all your ideas on a poster to put up in the toilets at school to help give others a list of ideas that might help them if they are feeling upset too.

Add a wellbeing paragraph to the poster to help to tell them that they matter too.

Remember to re-read your poster to make sure it makes sense and to check it is clear.

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