A TEENAGER says a police project has helped him to turn his life around.

Sutton Davies was one of ten local youngsters who joined the Respect Project, last autumn, sent along in the hope of building respect and helping reduce truancy in schools.

Sutton, 14, admits he had “a bit of a temper” and was rude and disruptive in class and to teachers at Alderman Blaxill School.

He was sent to a pupil referral unit, where one of his teachers nominated him to take part in the project last September.

The course involved sessions and team-building exercises, a life-skills course and discussions on peer pressure, sexual health and drugs and alcohol awareness.

Sutton and his fellow students also had the chance to get to know some local police officers, and ended up admitting they “aren’t that bad”.

A few months on, he was one of a group invited to an awards evening by Colchester mayor Henry Spyvee, at which the youngsters achievements were recognised.

Sutton said: “We had to behave at school and while we were with the group.

“The people who behaved themselves then got chosen for days out and we had meetings.

“At the end, people were then chosen to go to the Lake District.

“It gives people different perspectives and means you can get out of Colchester and see the surroundings.

“While I was there, there weren’t as many children as in school, so you got more time and attention if you were feeling angry or whatever.

“The people helped me control my temper.

“It is a really good project and probably stopped me doing really bad things. I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up yet, but I know I have a choice now.”

Insp Steve Scott-Haynes, who was involved on the police side, said: “The young people have shown a huge amount of enthusiasm and commitment.

“It’s a good way for us to interact with them and build up a relationship, so we can say hello to them when we see them out on the street.

“Hopefully, it shows we have a human side and are not just uniforms.”

The project, organised by the Essex Boys’ and Girls’ Club and supported by Essex Police, was set up in 2000 in an effort to engage pupils in school and keep them out of trouble.

Sue Pell, its co-ordinator, added: “The aim is for them to come away with respect for themselves, their peers, their teachers, parents, and the police.

“This isn’t the end for the young people – it’s just the beginning.”