A youth worker’s journey: meet Natasha Kerr, Scotland’s Youth Worker of the Year 2016

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.
natasha-kerr-1In 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. Continue reading


Youth workers don’t work alone: celebrating arts and partnership at the National Youth Worker of the Year Awards

An innovative project by Citadel Youth Centre and celebrity chef Tom Kitchin has been shortlisted for Scottish Youth Work Partnership of the Year at our National Youth Worker of the Year Awards. Supper at the Citadel is a partnership project between the youth centre and The Kitchin in Leith. Through a series of cooking classes at the restaurant youngsters learned culinary skills, as well as vital life skills such as planning and team-work.

tomkichenFor Tom Kitchin, the experience was rewarding and humbling:

“For me, it is really important that I support the local community. I am really passionate about kids and youth and trying to get people to do something with food and enjoy food. I am very blessed this restaurant has given us an incredible world that we are in now. But just across the road, there’s another world and it is important we don’t forget that.”

Glasgow Kelvin College has also been nominated for Partnership of the Year. The college is being celebrated for its unique approach, using an army of youth workers to deliver great results for young people. Continue reading

Smoking is a real drag on young people’s life chances

With National No Smoking Day just around the corner, Emma Papakyriakou from ASH Scotland and Colin Lumsdaine from NHS Lothian tell us why youth work needs to help young people think twice about lighting up a cigarette.

no-smoking-day-banner_bLet’s forget for a second that smoking is an addictive killer. Put that aside for now and let’s talk about cold, hard cash.

Money makes the world go around. This is particularly true for young people, and especially those without too much money to play with. For this group, the health impacts of smoking may seem a distant concern but the financial costs hit immediately – and keep stacking up.

Smoking is expensive, costing the average smoker in Scotland £1,600 a year. That’s a car or a summer holiday. For a couple getting married at age 30, it could be the deposit on a flat. In the here and now, it’s the difference between eating well or not, having a hobby or simply being able to engage in social life. Continue reading

What does it take to be nominated for a National Youth Worker of the Year Award?

Team work. Inspirational leadership. Advocacy.

Together, youth workers are changing lives for 400,000 young people in Scotland. Delivering innovative projects in teams and in partnership, leading best practice, championing our work – and encouraging those outside of youth work to do so too. Together, youth work is strong.

So today. we’re introducing you to seven people and teams who are spreading the youth work good word across Scotland.

airdrie-youth-work-teamAirdrie Youth Work Team, based at the town’s @home Youth Centre, are our first nomination for Team of the Year. With a focus on inclusion, equalities and diversity, the team works with vulnerable young people, including young carers, those at risk of anti-social or criminal behaviour, LGBT teens and young parents, to provide support tailored to each individual young person. They’ve successfully worked together with local partners to develop a range of opportunities for young people with additional needs, helping them to get involved in local youth work programmes like Shout Youth Forum and Duke of Edinburgh Award to build key life and work skills. We don’t think we could put it better any better than Gerry, aged 22:

“I would never been able to stick at my work without attending the @home centre.  I now have the confidence and willpower to create a bright future.  Taking part in DofE has been phenomenal, it has helped me to see what I am capable of achieving when I actually try.  I found passion in outdoor activities and I am building a career in working outdoors.”

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

My journey through CashBack

February 2017 is a month for recognising and celebrating achievement. There’s the BAFTAs, the Oscars, the Grammy Awards, the Brit Awards and more.  Behind the glitz and glamour the message is clear: “Life should not only be lived it should be celebrated” (Osho).

dalkeith-midlothian-councilThis month, we also pause to celebrate the amazing youth work that has been delivered across Scotland as a result of an investment from the CashBack for Communities Youth Work Fund. No venue big enough, no red carpet long enough to accommodate the real stars of this youth work, with 212 projects and more than 36,000 young people actively involved in their local communities.

In an age where everything we do is measured and evaluated to the nth degree, where the ‘so what?’ question is thrown about like confetti, I’m in no doubt that the most powerful measure of success is the voice of young people themselves.

So how do we begin to capture and celebrate the success of these shining stars? Continue reading

Meet our Full-Time and Part-Time Youth Worker finalists

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. Continue reading