National Youth Work Awards: meet our Young Youth Worker of the Year finalists

Scotland’s young people decided the word that defined them for Year of Young People was ‘braw’. And that’s something you can definitely say about the finalists for Young Youth Worker of the Year.

This Award celebrates three rising stars who deserve recognition for their outstanding contribution to youth work. All of the finalists are supporting young people to achieve Youth Work Outcomes, transforming youth work practice in their organisations, and skilling up to continue leading the change for years to come.

Otto Cox, Fife Council

When Otto joined Fife Council as a Digital Modern Apprentice, colleagues quickly spotted that he had a natural rapport with young people – especially those who needed a little more support to be themselves.

Three years in and Otto has transformed the post into a first for the service, combining his creative output with direct youth work. The team all praise him for his maturity and patience, while his skills are in demand for an Erasmus+ project exploring how digital tools support youth work.

“It felt like I was a proper cameraman… Watching Otto work made me want to do something like he does.”

Recently, Otto mentored Sean as part of an Activity Agreement. Sean was shy. He found it difficult to work in groups and wasn’t sure about going to new places. Working with Otto on a short video project changed that. Sean’s Community Education Worker, his family and Sean himself all credit Otto for helping him to turn his life around.

David MacKnight, Kilbirnie Youth Project /Dalry Twilight Basketball, North Ayrshire

No one knows you quite like a youth worker. And according to his own youth worker, David always had a passion for tackling the issues that affect young people – like having nothing to do in their local area.

16-year-old Declan nominated David because of the outstanding effort he’s made to help young people in Dalry. For Declan, it all started with Twilight Basketball. Seeing David lead by example when coaching – passionate, enthusiastic, inclusive – inspired him to train as a Twilight coach and start being the change in his own local community.

So when Declan and his friends needed help to set up a drop-in centre, they knew exactly who to turn to. David encouraged them with suggestions for venues, supported them during discussions with St Margaret’s Church in Dalry, and now delivers a needs-led youth programme with them every week. It’s clear that the young people of North Ayrshire are lucky to have a youth worker as inspiring as David.

Kareen Stewart, Who Cares? Scotland

It’s not every youth worker who gets their local council to ringfence £100,000 for looked-after children and young people – that’s exactly what Kareen managed in Renfrewshire.

Kareen works on Communities that Care, drawing on her own experience of growing up in care to support and inspire a number of care-experienced youth groups. From ages 5 to 21, dozens of young people benefit from the weekly sessions she plans and delivers. It’s a safe space to understand their care identity better, connect, and make new friends.

But it’s Kareen’s work to educate the local community, schools and key council decision-makers on care issues that marks this young youth worker as a force for change. She campaigns every day to influence positive change for looked-after children and young people. Most recently, Kareen and her team successfully lobbied local elected members to set aside £100,000 for looked-after children and young people for additional culture, leisure and employability opportunities.

We’ll be announcing the winners at our National Youth Worker of the Year Awards Dinner on 15 March 2018 at the Crowne Plaza, Glasgow. Keep your eyes on #YLSawards for updates, or better still book your place at this year’s Awards Dinner here.

And of course, thank you to SCQF Partnership for sponsoring the Young Youth Worker of the Year Award. We couldn’t celebrate these outstanding achievements without your continued support.

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