Testimonial of Faith Johnson
1. Describe the type of person you were before you joined AEC.
I was an AEC founding member, starting when I was 7 and grew up through the programme. As a young person, probably typical of inner city areas like Newham, I was outgoing, energetic and loved performing and showing off.
I guess it worked out well that I started cheerleading; it was a great way to express myself!
2. What attracted you to cheerleading?
I actually came to do cheerleading through the church. Before Jonathon and Shara Brice joined Ascension, I used to go to services on my own. After Jonathan became the vicar, Shara used to withdraw the children for Sunday School and teach us about God through cheerleading- an odd combination I know, but it worked!
When the Ascension Eagles started as a proper cheerleading team, it felt like a natural transition, and being the type of person I was, and growing up in an area that offered limited opportunities, it was inevitable that I would end up doing something that was all about self-expression and confidence.
3. How did Cheerleading and AEC impact on/ shape you as a person?
My personal life was extreme. As a teenager I was living a lifestyle that was spiralling out of control; it got to the point where my safety was coming under increasing threat. I’d fallen into gang activity and was part of an abusive relationship. I no longer governed my destiny.
At this time, AEC was my one positive environment. I was able to have fun and momentarily forget about what was going on outside the church, but was also able to develop my leadership abilities while working as part of a team; there were also extensive travel opportunities that allowed me to experience life outside of Newham. It inspired me and helped me to make better choices by the time I was in my early 20’s.
Basically, AEC was a support network that I didn’t have elsewhere in my life: not at home, from friends, or at school. It helped to positively shape me, particularly at times when I thought this was no longer possible.
4. Since cheerleading for AEC, what have you been able to go on and do?
Since my Ascension days I have moved on to set up my own fashion charity, Caramel Rock. Essentially, we are a charity that works with disadvantaged young people, inspiring them through fashion. These people come to us through school referrals, be it because they have behavioural, emotional, or psychological issues. There are other fashion charities, but what separates us is that they are often designed for young people who are already excelling. Our mission is to work with young people and stimulate a new passion that gives them something to work towards; a goal, an objective, a purpose. This is what makes us different and this is why I love what we do.
To support this we are very excited to be holding a new event in July 2018- a schools/ college fashion week. So please keep an eye on our website for information regarding this in the future! We’d love to see you there, or potentially exhibit your work!
5. What is your favourite AEC memory?
Monaco. Every time. Imagine a group of young people from Newham being invited to perform at the Supercup in Monaco, of all places. Imagine how excited we all were. For many of us it was the first big trip we’d had a way from home: chuck in a performance in front of a few thousand people for good measure and it was like we were living somebody else’s lifestyle altogether! Especially when we saw what we’d be travelling on… a luxury double decker bus kitted out with the most amazing luxuries and technologies.
It was the kind of thing you only do once, which is why I cherish this particular memory so much.
6. What would you say to young people like you who have big dreams and aspirations for themselves?
“Everything gets better. Never accept what’s there at that moment.”