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

Did you know that Scotland’s youth work sector is worth £656 million to the Scottish economy? That’s a lot of great youth work and a lot of positive impact.

Our nation’s 80,000 youth workers show outstanding passion and dedication to improving the lives of young people. These finalists are respected by young people, youth workers and partners alike.  They embody the skills, knowledge and values of youth work, making sure that young people have the opportunity to learn and develop.

That means they’re delivering youth work outcomes with young people, innovating and sustaining new models of practice, and working effectively in partnership with a whole range of local teams and national organisations.

Gayle Finlay, Dumfries and Galloway Council

Being able to adapt and respond to the ever-changing experiences of young people is the mark of a great youth worker. In all her work, whether it’s the many one-to-one support sessions she provides, her health and wellbeing partnerships with NHS and CAMHS, or her young parent’s group, Gayle is always focused on what is best for the young people she works with.

Last year, a young woman Gayle worked with died by suicide. Knowing the potential long-term effects for her circle of friends and family, Gayle challenged senior managers to put in extra resource to set up an ongoing bereavement support group to help those affected. Her quick and intuitive response to these tragic circumstances meant those young people felt listened to – they were able to talk about how they felt, and start to come to terms with what had happened.

Courtney wants her to know how much she means to everyone at Oasis Youth Centre: “We all just want to tell her how much she has changed our lives and thank her for everything she has done for us all.”

Johnny Hendry, Aberlour

“Everyone in Govan knows Johnny. Everywhere you go with him, people say hi to him. He’s a good guy. He’s helped us all in different ways, and helped people get jobs that wouldn’t usually stand a chance.”

Michael, aged 16, is just one of the many young people Johnny has helped. Often with chaotic home environments, many young people he works with are at risk of using drugs, committing crimes and getting drawn into violent gang culture. Johnny reaches out to those who are being missed by other services, by meeting them on their territory – the streets.

For those not engaging in school, Johnny finds powerful ways to support their learning and celebrate their talents in other settings, with truly transformative effects. His recent ‘Storm Cookers’ project, with professional chefs, provided local pensioners with some great posh nosh, the young people a chance to gain a Youth Achievement Award and planted the seeds of a career in catering for two of the young men. 

Laura Sharpe, See Me Scotland

You might wonder what superhero Captain America and finalist Laura have in common, but 16-year-old Kristi knows. They are both a force for good – and the fact that Laura, according to Kristi, is rather keen on her Captain America costume!

“She has made me feel more confident, not only in my volunteering role but in life. I admire how passionate Laura is and how she takes it upon herself to make an impact on so many peoples life, including mine.”

Being part of the change is at the root of her youth work practice. Laura is a powerful force in bringing about a revolution in mental health practice in schools, training both adults and young people in mental health literacy, and creating support networks across Scotland for schools, councils and the youth volunteers involved. An empowering person and an exceptional youth worker, Laura deserves recognition for the impact that she makes.

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 Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for sponsoring the Youth Worker of the Year Award. We couldn’t celebrate these outstanding achievements without your continued support.

Share this

Back to news Back to top