Ahead of AFC Community Trust Day on Saturday 17th February ten pupils from St Machar Academy have been given the unique opportunity to design a football shirt which will be worn by Dons players in the warm-up ahead of their match against Hibernian.
Ten participants of the S3 AFCCT St Machar Alternative Academy Programme have been working on the 'AFC Club Shop Project' since August 2023. As part of the project, the young people have worked collaboratively to design, produce and market a commemorative '10 Years of AFCCT' football shirt that will be sold in the AFC Club Shop in the run-up to Trust Day 2024.
The AFCCT St Machar Alternative Academy Programme aims to support young people who are perhaps not achieving their full potential in mainstream education. Thanks to the unique collaboration with AFCCT an alternative approach to education is employed which promotes ownership of learning and builds on core values such as confidence, resilience and teamwork.
The 'AFC Club Shop Project' has helped the young people develop skills in leadership, teamworking and research, and, as an added bonus, has provided them with evidence that will help them achieve the Level 4 SQA Personal Development Award, which is delivered during their weekly dedicated AFCCT sessions.
With creative insight provided by AFC Retail Manager Jason Hill who talked the participants through the kit design process, the young people have designed a one-of-a-kind shirt, bringing it from concept to completion with the project culminating in the young people getting a very special visit to Pittodrie for a unique marketing day where they got to see their shirt for the first time hanging in the first team dressing room.
“This project perfectly epitomises the power of football to make a positive impact on our young people”, said AFCCT chief executive Liz Bowie.
“We have had a very strong relationship with St Machar Academy for a number of years and the ‘AFC Club Shop Project’ is a great example of thinking outside the box in the delivery of our education programming which helps to close the poverty-related attainment gap.
“By bringing together a shared passion for football, we’ve been able to deliver an innovative programme which has energised and enthused these young people. What’s more, they’ve been able to attain a qualification which otherwise may not have been achieved.
“We are very proud of the positive strides we continue to take in our work with young people and I can’t wait to see the players in the football shirt ahead of the match. It will be a real full circle moment for these youngsters.”
Councillor Martin Greig, convener of the Education and Children’s Services Committee, Aberdeen City Council, said: “This partnership between St Machar Academy and AFC Community Trust is a wonderful example of how organisations can work with local schools to deliver first-rate experiences for our young people, while at the same time being hugely beneficial to the organisations involved.
“The St Machar Alternative Academy Programme not only offers the pupils involved the opportunity to develop lifelong skills but also gives them the chance to gain qualifications.”
Laura Ingram, Guidance Teacher at St Machar Academy was full of praise for how the young people have embraced this project from start to finish.
She said: “This has been such a fantastic project for the children to be involved in. It’s all they have spoken about for weeks.
“As a school it is hugely important to offer an alternative form of education for our young people. They adore being part of the community and have had a real sense of responsibility acting on behalf of the school with this project. It’s offered them a different challenge and I’ve seen such enthusiasm from them throughout the process, it’s been infectious.
“They were so excited to visit the club shop and the dressing room and see their shirt for the first time. The thought of the players wearing it and the fans seeing it on display means so much to them. They are just so happy and as a guidance teacher from St Machar Academy I am immensely proud of them all.”