From angry young man to Mayor of Barton - meet Delroy Ellis
DELROY Ellis is so enthusiastic and friendly that it's hard to believe he was once an angry young man.
But Delroy, 36, has transformed that anger to become the driving force behind Increase the Peace youth project at Parry Hall in Tredworth.
He's also former Mayor of Barton, has established a registered charity and the Increase the Peace office is full of photographs of Delroy with celebrities from Prince Charles to former F1 world champion Nigel Mansell.
Yet this is the man who 20 years earlier was excluded from school, had to be taught at home because of a violent incident with a teacher and became a streetwise drug dealer.
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As Delroy himself would admit, his is a remarkable story.
Delroy was born in Gloucester, with a Jamaican dad and English mum.
"My mum was a single parent. I was okay up to the age of about 13 then things started going wrong for me, I started smoking cannabis and was more influenced by my peers," he said.
Delroy also had undiagnosed dyslexia. He said: "I really struggled with reading and writing at school, teachers didn't seem to know what my disability was about.
"I had to be 'bad' because it was my form of defence because I couldn't read or write," he said, adding it was better to be 'bad' than labelled as 'thick'.
"Then I had to live up to that peer expectations, even if I didn't want to."
He attended Sandford School near Cheltenham for a while, but was permanently excluded aged 15, for fighting a teacher.
"My mum struggled with my behaviour, with the police kicking the door in and armed officers coming to the door because they thought I had a weapon," he said.
He made several attempts to find work or training and had various jobs. He dropped out of a gardening course at Hartpury College when he had to name plants in Latin.
And at a catering job where he had to wear a check hat and trousers he said: "I was more worried about my mates seeing me dressed like that than keeping the job. I had an image to maintain."
By aged 18 he was dealing drugs.
Money was his motivation, and having the right clothes and 'labels' to maintain his status.
"I was earning more money in a couple of days selling drugs than I ever did working in a week or so," he said.
"I felt very negative about being a young black man living in White City. I used that to justify selling drugs."
Delroy says, like many youngsters in his position, he used his background as an excuse.
The turning point came for Delroy when at 21, his dad died.
His dad was a Rastafarian and a very spiritual man.
"Visiting my dad, not long before he died, he said to me 'you're not living a righteous life. I want to give you one bit of advice. Make sure you lead by what you do. Don't follow'.
"That was my wake up call and the turning point in my life.
"I thought I don't want to be like this, I've got a chance."
His dad's funeral saw hundreds of mourners turn out to pay their respects.
"I thought, my dad had respect not because of the things he had, but because of what he did.
"It's not about what labels you wear, it's about who you are."
He completed a Prince's Trust training programme, before being offered a position as a volunteer. Increase the Peace began in 2008, initially as a music project to record an album with Gloucester youngsters. Youth Peace Project was founded in 2011, and the group works with children aged from eight to 21.
"Because I have been through the system people think I have a magic potion. I don't. Kids are changing, I have to concentrate on building a great team of youth workers," said Delroy who now has a team of 15 staff.
Increase the Peace moved into Parry Hall a year ago. There's a spacious hall for dance classes, table football and more, as well as a comfortable quieter room for mentoring, an IT suite where youngsters can call into an after-school club and do their homework, plus a kitchen, tuck shop and music room with recording facilities.
Delroy works in Tredworth Junior School as a learning mentor and is also a governor there.
"A lot of that work is about building key skills, getting them motivated and developing self-esteem," he said.
Being vigilant to a young person's needs and spotting their strengths is key to success, he says.
His own story serves as a lesson.
He said: "I was good at athletics as a kid, but the only running I did was from the police and their dogs.
"Even if I just take one kid off the streets a year that's my job done.
"It's about planting the seeds and inspiring young people before they are too deeply involved."
He is passionate about helping young people in Gloucester.
"Things are looking up for Barton and Tredworth. Parents are getting more involved and want to make a difference in a community," he said.
Delroy admits the last decade has been a "rollercoaster."
It's 15 years since he turned his back on drugs.
"This is my natural buzz," he says, looking around the youth centre.
"I don't have to watch my back anymore. I feel very blessed.
"I realised that the respect I was getting from the community was better than any money I could earn," he said.
"If it hadn't been for the loss of my dad, who knows where I would be now."