Celebrating volunteering and attainment at the National Youth Worker of the Year Awards

With just three weeks to go until our National Youth Worker of the Year Awards, our tenth anniversary is shaping up to be a real celebration of the crucial work being done by Scotland’s 80,000 youth workers, paid and voluntary. And today, we’re delighted to introduce you to six more finalists for our Volunteer and Supporting Attainment awards.

gail-foxDid you know that volunteer youth workers clock up a staggering 13 million volunteer hours every year? It’s no surprise then that the task of choosing just three finalists for our Volunteer Youth Worker of the Year felt a little… daunting. But choose we did and all of our nominees have gone above and beyond to serve the young people in their local communities.

“She is an amazing person and always thinks about everybody before herself. She has taught me skills I probably wouldn’t know if it wasn’t for her. You can always have a laugh or a cry because she just understands, she is more than just a leader, she’s like family.”

So says Millie, aged 12. She thinks Gail Fox, County Commissioner for Girlguiding Tweed Valley, is just fab. Gail holds a number of volunteer roles in the area, from Unit Leader with Tweedbank Guides to the regional co-ordination and training of Girlguiding in the Borders. For all her hard work with local Rainbows, Brownies and Guides, we’re thrilled to have her as a finalist.

christineAnother empowering young women’s organisation has also made the shortlist this year. Girls’ Brigade leader Christine McKillop works hard with her local Company and the Girls’ Brigade in Scotland to lead youth participation and speak up for young people’s rights. She’s used her own experiences to create a safe and supportive environment for girls and young women to get involved in an exciting programme of activities. Christine’s passion, openness and empathy inspired another young volunteer leader, Jayne, to nominate her:

 “Christine is determined to prove to everyone that a person’s sexuality does not mean they cannot function to the standards or be a valued part of a Christian organisation. She has used her own experiences to develop a positive, powerful message for change. She is a leader in the true sense of the word, making a massive contribution within her local 1st Allanton Company in Wishaw, and also at national level, training the next generation of volunteer leaders.”

robert-andersonThe Cubs turned 100 in 2016, and our final Volunteer Youth Worker of the Year finalist has shared in that journey for 30 years. Edinburgh Cub Scout Leader Robert Anderson has been nominated in recognition of his tireless work improving young people’s lives.

“Robert has demonstrated over many, many years his dedication and commitment to the values, ethos and method of Scouting. This has been particularly obvious in the centenary year of Cub Scouting in 2016. He led and inspired teams of leaders to deliver exciting activities and adventures for all Scouts.” (Graeme Luke, Head of Scouting Operations)

Scouts Scotland prides itself on the commitment and enthusiasm of its volunteer leaders, but Robert shines out as an influential leader who is dedicated to both the youth members and adult volunteers, and does all that he can to make their experiences life-changing.

From volunteering to attainment. Youth work is an effective, value-for-money approach to closing the attainment gap. With the Pupil Equity Fund allocation for 2017/18 announced earlier this month, we’re taking the opportunity to champion youth work-school partnerships with our Youth Worker Supporting Attainment award.

YMCA is celebrating a double nomination this year. Kelly Prentice, from Tollcross YMCA, and Laura Campbell, from Bellshill and Mossend YMCA, are both shortlisted for their outstanding contribution to the lives of vulnerable youngsters.

Kelly delivers the YMCA’s Plusone mentoring programme in partnership with four primary schools in the east end of Glasgow. The programme aims to build resilient young people through mentoring, increasing their confidence and self-esteem, which in turn supports their attainment at school. Pupils and parents have seen the immediate impact of her work at school and at home, as one parent told us:

“Before Plusone, Emma wouldn’t go to any groups or clubs, even within the school, as she didn’t have the confidence. She was angry and things were difficult at home. Myself and the school have noticed a huge change in Emma’s attitude since her support from Plusone. She has won three awards in school recently for helping out with the Primary 1 class, and is more helpful at home which has helped improve our relationship.”

laura-campbellLaura manages three youth work projects in Bellshill, all helping to engage marginalised young people in their local and school communities.

“When I started working with Laura I was out late, not going to school often and was being aggressive at home. My school attendance levels were at 23%. This was having a big impact on my achievements at school and I struggled to keep up with the workload. In the space of four months, my attendance went up to 98%. I am getting better in my classes. I think it helps that I have been made aware that my peers face the same issues. It’s good to have someone to talk to about it.”

In particular, her partnership work with Police Scotland and North Lanarkshire Social Work department on the Early and Effective Intervention (EEI) project has been praised as an example of youth work best practice in North Lanarkshire.

Working with the SALE project based in Coatbridge, youth worker Jacqueline Mitchell has been nominated for a Supporting Attainment Award in recognition of her success getting local youngsters back into education or training.

Taylor McCann believes Jacqueline helped her to turn her life around:

“After not being in any form of education for over a year, I had no confidence in my abilities and little hope of pursuing a satisfying career. Not only did Jacqui transform my attitude towards education but she reignited my passion for life in general. She goes above and beyond to support the young people around her, not only academically but also on a personal level. If you were to ask any of my peers to choose who they would want fighting in their corner it would be Jacqui as she puts her life and soul into restoring people’s faith in the world around them, which has only so far failed them. For the first time in a school-based environment people have finally found an adult they can rely on, who cares about them and who they can trust implicitly.”

img_0463Jacqueline is a vital figure in supporting local young people who have disengaged from mainstream school by liaising with parents, carers, providers and other relevant partners with regards to their academic progress and wellbeing. Using an informal youth work approach, she re-engages youngsters in core skills like English and Maths, organises work placements, offers the opportunity to take part in a range of qualifications and Youth Awards, all with fun at the heart of learning.

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 Young Scot and Education Scotland for sponsoring our Awards. We couldn’t celebrate these outstanding achievements without your continued support.

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