Westmont Magazine A Positive Program
Michael faces more than the usual teen-age challenges. Abandoned by his father and afflicted with diabetes, he struggles to control his anger and stay in school. But for three years, Albie Stadtmiller ’89 has invested time in the quiet 16-year-old, taking him to movies, museums and soccer games. He has gained Michael’s trust, filling a void in the boy’s life.
As coordinator for the youth project Positive Activities for Young People in Ealing, England, Albie meets many teenagers like Michael. “I engage young people at risk of criminal, anti-social or truant behavior,” he explains. “We try to catch them before they go too far over the deep end by providing all sorts of educational activities.” The government established the program after youth riots in the late 1990s.
Michael can take street dance lessons, learn how to produce, edit and create a music video, play basketball and soccer, or choose from many other activities. “The goal is informal education that builds skills for life, that creates positive members of society,” Albie says.
At first glance, Ealing doesn’t seem like a community that needs Albie’s program. Stately homes, expansive green fields and easy access to London and Heathrow Airport make it a desirable location for its large and diverse population. But picturesque houses and tidy English gardens abut crowded housing estates where residents of rundown buildings live amidst poverty and crime.
Albie served as a youth pastor in California for 10 years; he led a short-term mission to England with youth from his church before moving there. “I have always had a desire to live my faith in the ‘real world,’” he says. “When I was at Westmont, I got a job in town because I wanted to rub elbows with the community — I didn’t want to feel cloistered away in Montecito. When I was a youth pastor, I got a job as a substitute teacher because I wanted to work with non-churched kids in their own environment. As a church youth worker for most of my career, I always felt I didn’t have a well-rounded approach with adolescents. Getting a job within local government addresses this feeling. I am now a more seasoned and experienced youth worker — and I am getting lots of management and leadership experience in a non-church setting.”
An interpersonal communication major at Westmont, Albie says Professor Greg Spencer taught him to think. “I was no longer just memorizing material; it became part of me and influenced my thoughts and beliefs,” he says. “I began to think critically in his classes, a skill I have used later in life.”
Effective communication is still important to Albie; he works at being open and transparent, at being himself. His wife Antje, a British doctor, sets a good example. “She is real and finds it difficult to mask who she is,” he says.
Funding for his program runs out next year, so Albie will seek a new way to carry out his long-range plan “to make a difference in the lives of people, to teach in some way and to help people experience the transcendence of God in their life.” Options include setting up a short-term missions organization, teaching skiing in the Alps, doing outdoor education with youth or starting a business.
“The thing I really want to do is live out my purpose and life in work that resonates within my soul and gives me joy,” he says. “It is a bit like Eric Liddell says in ‘Chariots of Fire’ when his sister asks why he trains for the Olympics before going to Africa to be a missionary: ‘I do love God, but He has made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.’ I want to find something that gives Him and me pleasure when I am doing it.”