Youth of the Year Awards
Five of the UK's most inspirational young people have been awarded the accolade of 'Youth of the Year 2015' for overcoming adversity to achieve their personal goals.
Winners and their respective youth workers from across the United Kingdom including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were invited to an award ceremony at Buckingham Place where they were presented with their awards by HRH the Princess Royal. Each winner also received a £250 Amazon voucher, plus a £750 mini-grant for the supporting youth group to help to continue funding their great work.
The Youth of the Year Awards in its inaugural year, came to fruition to celebrate and promote the great work that young people do outside of formal education and recognise the valuable part that youth groups play in supporting them. UK Youth and national partners, Youth Cymru, Youth Scotland, Youth Work Ireland and Youth Action Northern Ireland, came together to support the national awards and received nominations from across the length and breadth of the country.
The winners of the Youth of the Year Awards 2015:
Agnes (22, England)
Agnes was brought to England from Africa at the age of 15. While still in Africa, she gave birth at the age of 13. Her son still lives in Africa today. When she first arrived, Agnes did not know the language or understand the culture. Agnes was placed in social housing due to initial difficult family relationships.
Agnes went to MYA looking for help finding employment and was met by the Talent Match team. With support from the team at MYA; Agnes attended college to work on her reading and writing and attended the Young Person Advisory Service for therapeutic support. This summer Agnes completed her college course and is now a peer mentor for her class.
Since the age of 15, Agnes has had to stand on her own in a country she doesn't know and an unfamiliar culture. Recently, Agnes achieved her dream of securing full time paid employment. This allows her to apply for her son to come to come and stay in the UK. We will be able to provide her with support and information during the application process.
Jodie (19, Wales)
Jodie has been a carer for her mother since she was 11 years old. Jodie was referred to the Bridgend Young Carers project by her school and when she joined she was a quiet young girl. Despite the extremely demanding nature of her caring role, Jodie worked hard to achieve 10 GCSE's and 4 A levels.
When she was 17, she joined the Young Adult Carer Voice Group. There she took part in a number of consultations with Wales Carers Alliance and contributed to the Social Services and Well-being Act. In 2014, Jodie was accepted to University and got a part-time job.
In addition to schooling and work, she continues to care for her mother, travelling home as much as possible. Jodie has supported the project in running workshops and training for young carers and regularly represents young carers in Wales. In June 2015, Jodie was a guest speaker at a Carers Trust Time to be Heard event where she spoke about taking steps to go on to further education and move away from her caring role.
Jodie has done so much for the project and is an excellent role model to young carers. She is an example of what hard work can achieve.
Liam (22, Scotland)
Born with severe disabilities and confined to a wheelchair as a very young boy, Liam was not taught in mainstream education and as a result was socially isolated. After many years of surgery, physiotherapy and support, he was transferred into mainstream education. There he was heavily influenced by his peers and was unable to cope properly. He quickly got involved in crime and anti-social and negative behaviours. He was eventually imprisoned for assault.
Coming out of prison he came back to GYC's youth work programme and participated with the manager Kevin Ross. Through support and regular interventions, Liam is now participating in the KABO boxing gym, is a volunteer within GYC and is a positive life force once again in the community and for GYC.
He admits if he had not taken an active role in GYC and had not been willing to embrace change, he would either be dead or in prison. Liam has lived in an area blighted by poverty, violence, crime, drugs and anti-social behaviour. Despite these circumstances, he has become a positive contributor, volunteer and role model for other young people in the community and within Granton Youth Centre.
Dylan (18, Ireland)
Dylan was referred to the Garda Youth Diversion Project in 2009. He had been cautioned five times for criminal damage and arson offences at the care residential unit where he had been placed. He engaged with a youth worker on a one to one basis to develop a relationship based on trust, informality and fun. His confidence began to grow and he was offered the opportunity to assist in running the youth cafe kitchen. This new responsibility helped him develop his confidence and more importantly a strong sense of belonging and purpose.
He subsequently took up the opportunity to join a social action youth group called 'Youthink' and helped organise an LGBT youth conference. He then participated in the 'Work to Learn' programme, which placed him in two part-time employments for 6 months each. Feedback from his two employers was very positive. He completed his Junior Certificate and left school early but returned almost immediately following intensive and timely support from his foster carers and the youth worker.
He is now a paid part-time employee with the youth service, employed to run the youth café and continues to volunteer in assisting youth workers in the delivery of programmes for young people.
Jordan (18, Northern Ireland):
Approximately 2 years ago Jordan was at a very low point in his life. Jordan has Asperger's Syndrome which can make social situations difficult for him. At his lowest point his school work suffered greatly and he was referred to a School Therapist. He felt that this additional support did not help him cope with his feelings.
The Rainbow Factory School of Performing Arts became the place he could go to be himself. He volunteered in many roles and represented Youth Action at events. Over the past year Jordan has strived to overcome his difficulties. So much so, that he has gained lead roles in two high profile shows by Rainbow Factory. He is currently attending Belfast Metropolitan College studying Arts and Drama. Jordan aims to pursue a career in the Arts.
Jordan is now a happy, confident, reliable and responsible young person uses these strengths to inspire and encourage younger members of the Rainbow Factory.
We would like to extend our congratulations to all of the winners, youth workers and youth development organisations involved.