With our 2017 National Youth Worker of the Year Awards just around the corner, we thought a trip down memory lane wouldn’t go amiss. Last year, youth worker Natasha Kerr took our top honour for more than 800 hours dedicated to mentoring 200 young athletes in Ayrshire. Today, Ayrshire College lecturer John McTaggart explores what brought Natasha to youth work.
In my 20 years as a college lecturer, I have had the privilege of engaging with many thousands of young people who have come into further education with dreams, hopes and aspirations of creating a better future for themselves.
In order for people to achieve their dreams, we must create opportunities and develop a supportive environment that will help these young people to go forward with hope and without fear of failure. Further education is an opportunity for many who have had negative experiences prior to coming to college. Everyone has a story, everyone has a journey, but for one student this journey has been immense. I would argue that no learner in the country has travelled further or had a greater impact on their local community than Natasha Kerr.
Four years ago Natasha came to Ayrshire College as a shy and introverted student with severe confidence issues. The progression she’s made since then has been remarkable. Although Natasha is still working on her confidence issues, the amount of voluntary work she has undertaken, allied with 100% attendance in her four years at college, is indicative of her dedication and commitment. Her transformation from introverted student to pillar of the Ayrshire sport and fitness community is nothing short of remarkable. Since joining the college, she has dedicated her life to working within the community on a daily basis to provide a positive impact for young people.
Natasha is a magnificent role model and a key figure delivering opportunities across the local authority. To see her recognised as Scotland’s Youth Worker of the Year in 2016 was the highlight of my college career. She is a truly inspirational young women who selflessly puts others before herself. She is a great ambassador not only for Ayrshire College and the wider community, but a prime example of young people in society who make such a difference to so many. In her own words:
“I was extremely lacking in confidence. Volunteering and being at college has helped me increase my confidence and control my selective mutism. Ayrshire College has also helped me immensely throughout the last four years. They actively encourage me to believe in myself. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that I have helped children to improve their skills, increase their ability, but most importantly, seeing the smiles on their faces knowing that they are happy and enjoying themselves.”
Natasha is a product of the pastoral care afforded to her by her college lecturers, the Students Association and Student Services. This also extends to our community partners such as Vibrant Communities, Active Schools, Kilmarnock Harriers and Ayrshire Sportsability, who have all been very supportive of her. But all that she’s achieved and the difference she has made would not have been possible without her commitment, compassion and willingness to help others. She is a great ambassador for all young people who strive to make a difference to the communities they live in. Irrespective of what career you have, where you stay, what age you are, ultimately everyone can make a positive difference to society. This is what Natasha does on a daily basis. She is someone who we are exceptionally proud of.
Natasha continues to volunteer and work within Ayrshire. She continues to make a difference to the community but importantly, the community continues to make such a difference to her. The youth of today, it has so much to offer!
We’ll be announcing the winners at our 2017 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 our sponsors. We couldn’t celebrate these outstanding achievements without your continued support.