Leeds & West Yorkshire

Heckmondwike teenager 'changed by' army life

Jonathan Kirby in army uniform
Image caption Jonathan's application to join the Yorkshire Regiment at Catterick was successful

A Heckmondwike teenager whose life was turned around by military-style discipline is to join the Army.

After being expelled from school in 2008, Jonathan Kirby, now 17, was referred to the Kirklees Anti-social Behaviour Unit.

Staff invited him to take part in the Army Community Challenge, designed to test teenagers physically and mentally.

Mr Kirby said it "changed my life" and will join the Yorkshire Regiment in May.

Before participating in the Army Community Challenge, Mr Kirby had been in trouble a number of times and faced the prospect of being given an anti-social behaviour order.

"It worried me a lot and I knew I needed to stop, pull my finger out and get doing something," he said.

David Adams, from Kirklees Anti-social Behaviour Unit, said he suggested Mr Kirby take part in the Army Community Challenge in the hope it would lead him in a new direction.

'Slim opportunities'

The challenge is intended to give a taste of army life and discipline while fostering team spirit.

Mr Adams said: "Some see it as bad behaviour being rewarded, however what is forgotten is that these teenagers' opportunities are very, very slim."

Mr Kirby said he gained a lot from taking part.

"It was a big shock at first, but after the first few days I just loved it," he said.

After completing the challenge, Mr Kirby decided to pursue an army career.

He joined the Military Preparation Course at Lockwood near Huddersfield and has now been accepted into the army.

He said his parents, Stephen and Beverley, supported his decision.

"They just want what is best for me," he said.

Mr Kirby will join the regiment as an infantry soldier at Catterick on 1 May.

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