Wetherby teenager: “How I turned my life around”

20/5/11   Catherine Emery 16 a pupil at Wetherby High School in the art class.
20/5/11 Catherine Emery 16 a pupil at Wetherby High School in the art class.

A Wetherby schoolgirl given an ASBO and banned from town centre shops at just 14-years-old has turned her life around.

Catherine Emery, now 16, was given the anti-social behaviour order in the summer of 2009 after a string of incidents related to her excessive drinking and aggression.

At the time her severely troubled behaviour was so extreme it attracted national attention.

But Catherine, who attends Wetherby High School and is currently sitting her GCSEs, was given a reprieve from her ASBO by a judge seven months early for her good behaviour.

Now , with the help of her school, Leeds City Council, and the Youth Offending Service, as well as her own determination, Catherine’s life has been transformed.

She has now gained a place at Leeds College of Art starting this September.

She said: “When I discovered that I was being let off the ASBO early I was thrilled,” says Catherine. “I think the school and my mentors have been a real support to me and have helped me so much over the past two years and throughout my time here at the school, when I was going through a lot of problems at home.

“ Before , I was very scared and angry with myself, and used to lash out at people if they said things to me. I used to get into a lot of fights, drank a lot, and I just didn’t care about myself.

“However, after all the help and support I have received, and my own determination, I have turned my life around. The ASBO scared me a lot, as I knew if I breached it I could end up in prison.”

Catherine’s ASBO prevented her from possessing or drinking alcohol in public or asking others to buy it on her behalf, being with certain friends and going into various places in Wetherby town centre including Morrisons supermarket and Sandringham Park.

The schoolgirl, who lives with her single-parent mum Liz and older brother John in Seacroft, after housing problems caused them to move from Wetherby, admits she breached her ASBO once.

However her passion for art has helped her overcome some of her most challenging problems.

“When I paint I forget everything and visualise what is going to be on the page,” she says. “If I get angry now I just paint which helps me and is therapeutic. I have learned to deal with my own anger a lot better now. I don’t bottle it up inside.”

After Catherine was given her ASBO, and to help Catherine work through some of her problems, she was sent to a pupil enhancement programme (PEP) with one-on-one teaching for six months.

She said: “The staff there were easy to talk to and I started being good, I realised I’d been the person I always wanted to be. I would like to thank everyone at Wetherby High School, including my mentors for all their help, but the real change had to come from me, I needed to help myself before anyone else could help me.”

Catherine now has ambitions to be a community artist, and said she is feeling hopeful about the future. “I just feel more positive about life now than I did before and I can deal with things much better than I used to be able to. My mum is very proud of me,” she said.

Head of key stage four, Peter Muddiman, said Catherine’s story was an ‘inspiration’ to both teachers and staff at the school. “Here at Wetherby we have the motto ‘Caring, Creative and Confident’ and I believe Catherine, having reached her true potential, is all those things. She has really blossomed, we are all proud of her, and she is quite rightly proud of herself.”

Catherine often comes back to Wetherby, to see her two best friends out of school, and says everyone is friendly to her.

She says: “Whenever I come to Wetherby to see my friends, I still see people around who say hi to me, even the police, who I saw a lot of when I was really bad, have asked how I am, which is really nice.”