BEHIND EVERY AWARD …

Sue McWhirter Cultural Diversity Winner

Louise Macdonald is the CEO for Young Scot, the national youth information and citizenship agency.

Twitter @Louisemac

It was a humbling and very emotional night. No, not Fergie’s retirement party (still waiting on my invite). I’m talking about being extremely proud of young Scots at the recent Young Scot Awards.

If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely you work with young people every day like we do, and you know how brilliant they are. But beyond our desks, outside our office walls, community halls, schools and colleges, can we confidently say everyone else shares our passion in young people? Of course, they should. But too often we still witness people’s automatic reaction as one that veers towards tracksuit-wearing aliens, rather than potential agents of positive change in our communities. This domination of the “deficit model” is hugely frustrating, but should only re-energise our focus on continuing to find ways to ensure our belief in young people is wholeheartedly shared and celebrated.

From health to community, to volunteering and enterprise, the Sunday Mail Young Scot Awards are about giving Scotland an opportunity see, hear and listen to the outstanding achievements of young people. Through this high-profile platform we believe it creates a more honest perception of young people in our communities and across society.

So, the Awards are a chance to celebrate, the end result if you like. But how do our young nominees get to the point where they have the confidence and capacity to go out into their communities and make change happen?

The answer, dear reader, is you. It’s us. It’s we. Those around the country who are committed every day to giving the nurture, care and encouragement to young people to support them to become happy, healthy and confident citizens. The stories of the finalists and winners of the Young Scot Awards gave so many examples of this.

Take our Cultural Diversity winner, Sue McWhirter, aged 15. She had experienced homophobic bullying and rather than doing nothing about it, she was encouraged by her youth worker at LGBT Youth Scotland, Louisa McEvoy, to instigate change. With support, Sue has been instrumental in changing attitudes of homophobia and has created a DVD to support other LGBT young people. And Louisa’s support didn’t go unnoticed, when Sue gave her winner’s speech on the night she emotionally thanked her youth worker first.

Then there’s our Unsung Hero winner, Dean Crawford, aged 17, who also gave credit to his youth worker, Jimmy Wilson, when he picked up his Award from the cast of TOWIE. Dean had an extremely difficult upbringing in the East end of Glasgow, and lost two parents to knife crime and alcohol misuse. With an ambition to become a drug dealer, Dean’s outcome could have been a lot different if it wasn’t for the street team at FARE. They spotted Dean’s leadership skills and how he engaged with young people and channelled these skills into a positive outcome. Guess what? Dean is now a trained youth worker, making a difference to the lives of so many others in his community.

But these are just two of the stories from the night (and if you want to see more, I’d encourage you to check out the videos of ALL the finalists on http://www.thepatter.org). And you know, like we do, that there thousands more just waiting to be shared.

What our Awards, and the National Youth Worker Of The Year Awards run by YouthLink Scotland, demonstrate is that whilst we might not all have careers quite as overtly successful as Govan’s Sir Alex, we should celebrate the achievements of our young people just as wildly as he does when winning a trophy. So join with us running on the pitch, arms in the air, trophy above our heads, big smile on the face…. proud, very proud.

Work with us to share the positive stories of the young people you work with, over at: http://www.thepatter.org)

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