United and Me: Arissa's story

Monday 13 May 2024 14:00

Arissa has completely turned her life around with the help of Manchester United Foundation and is now inspiring a new generation of young people in her community.

Arissa is the latest star of #UnitedandMe - a participant-led youth voice campaign, giving young people the platform to share their experiences with the Foundation.

The Foundation has impacted Arissa’s life in so many ways; she was mentored by one of our delivery staff members at her high school, has enrolled on our college programme, and attends and volunteers at our free Street Reds community football sessions each week.

As a result of her efforts, and a willingness to make the most of every opportunity that comes her way, Arissa has benefited from countless experiences with the Foundation – such as a cultural trip to Munich, and, more recently, meeting Reds captain Bruno Fernandes. But when our first intervention with Arissa was made four years ago, it came at a crucial time.

As a pupil at one of our partner schools – Whalley Range High School, barely three miles from Old Trafford – Arissa met our high-school partnership officer at her school, Lauren Davies, and was enrolled on a programme to help manage her emotions.

“I struggled a lot with my mental health in high school, keeping friends and friendship groups,” recalled Arissa. “I was surrounded with the wrong people and looked up to the wrong people.

United and Arissa Video

United and Arissa

This story of an inspiring MU Foundation participant includes a wholesome meeting with Bruno Fernandes...

“I met Lauren when I got put in a youth violence prevention programme. If I ever felt like I was struggling, I would just go to Lauren. You always have that [special] teacher or person in school; Lauren was definitely that person for me. She definitely saved me in a lot of ways.”

That contact with the Foundation was the start of a turning point, as Lauren’s input helped to have a huge impact on Arissa.

Lauren explained: “The first time I met Arissa, we bounced off each other straight away.

“Arissa mainly struggled with her behaviour in school, based on the fact she found it difficult to manage her emotions. We’d take her out of class and onto the pitch, and the way she’d release her emotion was to boot some footballs around.

“I’m super proud of her, the way she’s developed and everything she’s become. Participants here at the Street Reds session that she attends are looking up to her. To see her go from who she was in school and where she was at, to where she is now, is amazing to see.”

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The one-to-one mentoring offered by Lauren was key, but the additional opportunities she opened up for Arissa to engage in other Foundation projects also proved so important in helping her to progress along her new path.

Arissa added: “Lauren introduced me to Street Reds and I’ve been going ever since.

“I have a great community here, great friends, all the coaches are amazing. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s diverse. Everyone has something to do here.”

Arissa is also a volunteer coach at Street Reds and was a member of our inaugural Street Reds Youth Voice panel, which offers views on how the Foundation can best support young people, and shape the programme across Manchester.

As part of her role on the Youth Voice panel, Arissa has spoken with community leaders like Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, aired her views on a recently released Manchester United podcast about the local community, and represented the Foundation in Munich, as part of a unique trip commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster.

Arissa was supported by Man Utd Foundation coach Lauren.

All of her achievements culminated in a recent meeting with Bruno, who presented Arissa with the Premier League’s Community Captain award.

Arissa spoke about the journey she has enjoyed with the Foundation, which led to Fernandes praising his fellow captain for all of the incredible things she has done.

He told Arissa: “I can see from your words and everything [you have achieved] that you have changed yourself; you have changed your mindset. That’s the most important thing: we have to do something for ourselves.”

Arissa has carried that ethos on every step of her inspirational journey, as she looks to pass on her wisdom to a new generation of budding community leaders.

Arissa volunteers as a coach at the Foundation's Street Reds sessions.

She concluded: “I’d love to stay with the Foundation; I want to be the person to bring even more opportunities into the community.

“Me and my community are close, we all know each other, and if I can help a kid how I was helped, I’d be very grateful.”

For more about the United and Me campaign by clicking here.