UK Youth is delighted to announce that our CEO Ndidi Okezie, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020 and has received an O.B.E. for services to Young People during the COVID-19 response.
We are thrilled that the critical role the youth sector has played in driving support for young people during Covid-19 has been recognised in this way. As an individual, Ndidi has dedicated her life to work that champions equality for children and young people. Working with others to ensure that young voices are heard, valued and that there are effective ecosystems of support surrounding them.
Throughout the crisis, whilst guiding UK Youth through a time of immense uncertainty, Ndidi has consistently strived to ensure that young people are not forgotten or ignored in the wake of COVID-19. She has relentlessly contributed her expertise to media platforms, numerous rapidly convened national boards, Government working groups, U.K wide Commissions and strategic projects set up to drive system change. She has used her voice to campaign for communities of overlooked young people, working with other infrastructure bodies, youth organisations and cross sector networks to lobby for a never more needed critical financial package of support to come into the sector.
Joining UK Youth as CEO in January 2020, Ndidi was new to the youth sector, but not to young people and is seasoned in delivering transformational system change in a variety of contexts. Having been part of the 2003 inaugural cohort of the Teach First Leadership Development Programme, she spent 10 years working in inner London Schools as a teacher and then School Leader. She then spent six years as the Executive Director at the charity Teach First, where she oversaw Regional operations, Youth Access Programmes, Community Action and Alumni Development. After Teach First she joined Pearson PLC, where she led on Digital and Customer Voice Strategy and was the Vice President of the U.K Secondary Schools Portfolio.
Ndidi is an Ambassador for Teach for Nigeria and is currently a Non-Executive Director of the Mulberry Schools Trust, The National Citizen Service and the Youth Homelessness charity, Centrepoint.
In response to the OBE, Ndidi commented “This is a very strange thing in what has been a very difficult year for so many. As always, these awards are really about the collective of incredible people a CEO has the privilege of leading, I may be the face but this is really for the Staff, Trustees and partners of UK Youth. Thank you to them, for their tireless commitment to positively impacting the lives of young people and for the ability to take a leap of faith and pivot in order to rise to this moment of extraordinary need.
I would especially like to say thank you to the young people we exist for. Their tenacity, resilience and boldness motivate us each and every day. Even in these most unprecedented times of difficulty, they have inspired us to keep striving, unapologetically believing that the limitations that arise by life circumstances can be overcome. I’m so grateful to them.”
UK Youth is also delighted to see that UK Youth’s Vice-Chair Mark Wakefield was honoured with a British Empire Medal for services to Young People. Mark has served on the board of UK Youth since 2009 and is the Corporate Citizenship Manager for IBM UK. Before joining IBM, he spent 12 years as a face-to-face youth worker and 10 years managing youth provision and community education delivery, working in some of London’s most disadvantaged areas.
Mark added “I’m delighted and flattered to have received this recognition, in part at least for my involvement with UK Youth. Someone once said that volunteering is an essential act of citizenship and I passionately believe that. I think that we have a duty to help create the sort of society that we want to be a part of, and my involvement with UK Youth and with young people more generally has, I hope, addressed that duty. But my involvement has not just been about duty but also much fun, learning and opportunity too.”
Former board member and the CEO of Youth Fed Chris Hindley, has also received an O.B.E. for his services to young people in the North West of England. Chris is a tireless advocate for young people and this recognition is most deserved.