Last month, Laura Campbell was crowned overall National Youth Worker of the Year at our (youth work) star-studded Awards ceremony. Picking up a National Youth Worker of the Year Award for supporting attainment too, she’s been managing youth work projects with YMCA Bellshill and Mossend for 15 years.
My organisation runs a variety of youth projects, of which I manage three: Befriending, Plusone Mentoring, and Early and Effective Intervention (EEI).
Each has a different aim but they all cover reducing social isolation, promoting better engagement at school, diverting young people away from the criminal justice system, and addressing anti-social and offending behaviour. But ultimately my goal is to match a young person with a supportive adult, with whom they can build a relationship and work through the variety of issues that are facing them. Sometimes the reason why a young person is referred is not the reason they behave the way they do – and they need someone willing to listen and dissect the information to get the root of the issue. Only then can we really start to offer advice and support. As much as I am the Manager, I still do face-to-face work because I love the buzz of working with young people and knowing that you’re helping them towards a positive path.
Our projects help young people in many ways. They gain confidence in themselves and their ambitions. They start to engage better with their parents and teachers. They attend school more regularly. They think about the consequences of their behaviour and actions. Ultimately, they form a relationship where they are safe to explore their thoughts and actions, and are encouraged to make informed choices. Youth work saved my life when I was a teenager as I was on a very dark path. I want to know that in years to come, somewhere there is a young person saying the exact same thing – remembering how we helped.
To win not just one Award but two meant the world to me. I’ve being working in the youth work field for 17 years, 15 of which have been with my current organisation. So to be recognised for the time and effort put in to helping vulnerable young people reach their potential was both overwhelming and amazing. I see the difference my young people make and I feel pride in their progress. But for people to recognise and acknowledge my role in that progress has been the absolute highlight of my career. The smile from the Awards night has, and will, stay on my face for a long time!