Former teenage tearaway now hoping to be a force for good on Monks Hill estate

Croydon Guardian: Steven Pickering with his mentor Andy Stranack Steven Pickering with his mentor Andy Stranack

A young man who used to be the bane of his neighbourhood has gone from being a teenage tearaway to a teenage mentor.

Steve Pickering, 26, formerly of the Monks Hill estate but now lives in Warlingham, used to cause havoc on the estate but is now hoping he can help encourage the next generation of young people.

The dad of one, who is also an up and coming DJ, says becoming a Christian and the help of mentor Andy Stranack are the key reasons behind where he is today.

Mr Pickering was already known to the police when he was 11 years old and was a habitual cannabis smoker as well as being one of the main culprits behind a host of anti social behaviour offences.

He attended the youth club run by Mr Stranack throughout his teens and struck up a budding relationship with the now prospective councillor who had given up his £30,000 a year job to live on the Monks Hill estate on the poverty line.

At 16-years-old, Steven was dealt a severe blow after his cousin Mitchell White was stabbed to death on the estate.

Mr Pickering said the estate was broken after that incident and added his dad had never been the same since.

The tyre fitter said his behaviour went downhill and he almost got his family evicted from the estate.

But whilst attending a court hearing which would decide whether his mum have to leave Monks Hill, Mr Pickering said he had a religious experience which would change his life forever.

His family were consequently given another chance to stay on the estate and Steven proceeded to turn his life around.

Mr Pickering found a passion in DJ’ing and started to make his own music. He gave up smoking drugs and also began working at a garage.

Croydon Guardian:

Steven Pickering

A member of Jubilee Church in Selsdon, Mr Pickering is now starting to give advice to some of the young people in Monks Hill.

He said: “I talk to them now and again about god and stuff but mainly it is about music and being a good friend.

“A lot of the kids I speak to, they are interested in church but they aren’t interested. You can’t force people to do things, it has to up to them. With me, something happened to me that day and I was like this is mental. Maybe I am mad but it has helped me.

“I wanted to become a Christian. It was not something I was born into, it was a choice thing. “It would be great to replicate to others what Andy has done for me. I took one of them to hospital the other week. I didn’t do it because I felt like I had to do it I do it because I enjoy doing it.

"What better feeling is there than helping someone? The reward is seeing them get on in life.”

Steven added: “I was really blessed to get out of that cycle as I got a lot of support.

“There were certain things Andy would not do for me, like give me money. But if I needed food he would get it for me.

"When I first learnt to drive he gave me his car and put me on his insurance. Then on the day I passed on my test, on my birthday, I crashed his car. Right in front of my mum. Fortunately he was able to get a new one.”

Mr Stranack said he always wanted to focus on the positives when he mentored Steven, who was taken out of mainstream school at an early age.

He said: “I could see Steven had natural leadership ability. Although the things he was doing was not that constructive, people would listen to him.

"It was about channelling that potential in a positive way. Unfortunately by the time I met him the council and police had got to know a name and if anything happens then Steven would get the finger pointed at him.

"At 11 they were all smoking green and dope, it then escalates as they get onto the harder drugs and they start getting into financial problems and stuff like that.

"Either they become drug dealers which means they end up in prison or beaten up. It is just a vicious cycle and just leads people down the wrong path.”

Mr Stranack added: “It is about taking those passions and using them in a positive way. When Steven was first into cars I helped him make business cards and he offered a valeting service and he started making money legitimately.

"With all my mentoring you identify whatever the kid’s passion is and you try and turn it into something good. Sometimes it is difficult to say what your passion is but people do have them.”

When Steven heard the news that Andy, who also has cerebral palsy, had cancer he thought he was going to lose not only his mentor but a close friend.

He was also on the cusp of becoming a dad for the first time and the stress of both situations saw his hair fall out. He had his hair cut for the first time in two years last week.

Mr Pickering wanted to be proactive. So he entered a charity banger race and raised an impressed £1,000 for the Royal Marsden.

Andy said it was a poignant moment for him.

He said: “I think the best thing for me was Steven got a fundraiser together and raised more than £1000 for the royal Marsden by taking part in a banger race.

"You could see that he had learned. Bad things can happen but he got the positive out of it.”

Steven added: “If Andy had died I don’t know what I would do, where I would be. That is what was worrying the most. He is going to die one day obviously but it would have been too early.

"He is my mentor but he is also my best mate. On the first day I saw Andy, when people were there laughing at him because of the way he walks I wanted to stand up for him.

"He is had a major impact on my life. He does my head in a lot though so I have had to put with him as well.”

Mr Stranack, who has done a lot of work at the Centre for Social Justice, said more work needs to be done at government level to help communities like Monks Hill.

Croydon Guardian:

Andy Stranack is running for Heathfield ward in the local elections 

He said: “I am hoping that as the economy turns around we can get back to tackling these issues again, the key social justice issues. It is about cross party thinking on how to tackle poverty.

"There was a feeling that if you throw enough money at the problem you will solve it but actually you have to look at the roots. Those are things like education failure, family breakdown, drug addiction, personal debt.

“It is a combination of all those things that lead to people getting trapped in poverty.”

He added: “Steven still has things he struggles with but things have turned around and hopefully he can keep going in the right direction.”

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