Last week we announced 26 amazing finalists for the National Youth Worker of the Year Awards 2017. With nearly 400,000 young people benefiting from youth work every year, the Awards reflect your impact on young people’s increased life chances, personal development and well-being.
So who better to introduce you to our Full-Time and Part-Time finalists than the young people who have experienced first-hand how youth work changes lives? Read on for six inspiring stories of youth work across Scotland…
Making a difference to Arran’s young people has resulted in two of the island’s youth workers being shortlisted. Graeme Johnston and Hollie Watson, both from Arran Youth Foundations, have been nominated for a Full-Time and Part-Time Youth Worker of the Year Award respectively. The pair are involved in a variety of youth projects across the island – Graeme even sails back and forth from the mainland five days a week! But he hasn’t let geography get in the way, making sure Arran’s youngsters get the rare chance to use restaurant kitchens, to learn wood-carving with a local world-renowned artist and to benefit from one of only three IT Peer Education Youth Hubs in Scotland. Hollie, on the other hand, set up a partnership with social services to provide support for vulnerable young people on the island.
Which is why Leigh Boyd has such admiration for them. “Personally, he [Graeme] has helped me be who I am, through the best and worst times, like when I was struggling with depression he was there to help and let me say how I feel, which I am so thankful for… Hollie is such a role-model figure to me from her personality to the fact she did make the leap from school to taking on a bunch of teenage kids. We love her so much, she deserves the world. This award would just be the start.”
It’s not just Arran celebrating a double nomination. Kerry Dair and Fiona Rankin both work with East Ayrshire’s Young People, Sport and Diversion Team – and both have been shortlisted for their outstanding contribution to local youth participation and inclusion. Part-time youth worker Fiona supports some of the area’s most vulnerable young people, developing sustainable youth groups for LGBT teenagers, youngsters with additional support needs and looked-after children. Full-time youth worker Kerry champions giving children and young people a voice in the area, leading the growth of East Ayrshire’s Youth Conferences. Emily Chow says Kerry had made a huge change in her life: “I’m quite a quiet person, but Kerry has helped me get more confident since being part of her Young Legacy Ambassadors group. She has worked with me and the rest of the group to learn new things, and helped us get the skills to take forward a peer education project, so we can help other young people like us.”
The final nominee for Full-Time Youth Worker of the Year is Laura Ward. She’s been a youth worker with Y sort it since 2004. In that time, she has supported hundreds of vulnerable young people by developing a number of projects in West Dunbartonshire. The Young Carer’s Service supports 150 young carers each year, providing 1-to-1 support and respite opportunities. She’s also played a significant role in supporting young people to form a local LGBT youth group and the Mums & Munchkins support group for local young mums. One young mum, Aimee said: “Laura helped me so much when I found out I was pregnant very late on in my pregnancy, she listened to all my worries, she made sure I was okay, and was there to give me support. Once I had my daughter, she helped me to go to college and to attend the Mums & Munchkins group. She deserves to be recognised for all her hard work. If it wasn’t for Laura, I don’t know where I would be, she really did help me to change my life for the better.”
Last but certainly not least is Fraser Thomson, nominated for Part-Time Youth Worker of the Year with Cromarty Youth Café. Fraser leads various projects including mental health peer mentoring, sexual health awareness, sailing and an innovative Techno class, which brings young and old together! But he’s also supported 150 young people to take part in Saltire Awards, to build skills through volunteering. Young people like Toman Dargie: “When I first started I was quite shy and reserved but now the confidence I have gained, with Fraser’s help, has allowed me to join Highland Youth Parliament, Pupil Voice, volunteer for Saltire Awards, and I am also now a Mental Health Peer Educator.”
We’ll be announcing the winners at our National Youth Worker of the Year Awards Dinner on 16 March 2017 at the Crowne Plaza, Glasgow. Keep your eyes on #YLSawards17 for updates, or better still book your place at this year’s Awards Dinner here. And of course, thank you to Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Youth Scotland for sponsoring our Awards. We couldn’t celebrate these outstanding achievements without your continued support.