09 July 2015

A pupil who started a bullying support service and a group of students who distribute food to people in need have been honoured at Northamptonshire County Council’s Youth Ambition Awards.

The awards, held in partnership with Connexions, were presented at a special ceremony yesterday (Wednesday) at Wicksteed Park and recognised some of the fantastic things being done by children and young people across Northamptonshire.

Awards were given out in five categories:

  • Young Apprentice of the Year
  • The Arts Award
  • Young Role Model of the Year
  • Project or Campaign of the Year
  • The Taking Charge of Your Life Award

The winners also included an ambassador for apprenticeships, a teenager who has overcome two life-affecting illnesses to pass her GCSEs and a theatre group who developed a play about body image.

County council deputy leader Cllr Heather Smith said: “Last night was a wonderful opportunity for us to highlight some of the incredible achievements of young people in Northamptonshire.

“It was incredibly difficult to select the winners from all of the fantastic nominations we received, and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to put someone forward for an award.”

Dr Paul Blantern, county council chief executive, said: “We heard some truly incredible stories last night and it was a real honour to meet the young people who were shortlisted for an award.”

The Youth Ambition Awards are held in conjunction with Northamptonshire Newspapers’ Education Awards.

The winners

Young Apprentice of the Year – Lufuidy Paxi

Lufuidy, 19, is a business administration apprentice with the British Footwear Association and is an apprentice ambassador, giving talks to schools about the benefits of apprenticeships.

Lufuidy’s manager Kevin Traynor, finance director at the British Footwear Association, said: “Lufuidy approaches every task she is given in a very mature and professional manner and is very keen to learn new skills. She has grown in confidence and actively contributes to day-to-day developments, helping colleagues and members of the association alike. She is an inspiration to others.”

Arts Award – County Youth Theatre Group from Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust

The 7 students from year 10 to year 13 at the County Youth Theatre developed and performed a play called Gorgeous, which looks at issues around body image. They performed the play at a local young person’s wellbeing event and in London for International Women’s Day.

Their drama teacher Nikki Taylor said: “The small cast worked in their own time rehearsing and getting to grips with the difficult topic that the play represents. These two performances gave the students a chance to share a very important message about body image, self-esteem and mental health, and explored ways in which they can be tackled in a positive and enlightened way.”

Project or Campaign of the Year – Team Phoenix

Team Phoenix is a group of seven pupils from Rushden Academy who help to distribute surplus food from local supermarkets to food banks and night shelters on behalf of the Phoenix Resource Centre charity. The students also gathered food to send to people affected by the earthquake in Nepal and have recently launched a breakfast club to give Year 11 students taking their exams a good start to their day.

John Richardson, trustee at the Phoenix Resource Centre, said: “Team Phoenix have a wonderful work ethic and work far harder than the majority of adult volunteers we see during the working week. They are a very modest group of youngsters who won’t expect any thanks or recognition for what they do as they are just passionate about helping those in need.”

Young Role Model of the Year – Melissa Churchill and Samuel Turner

Melissa volunteers at Kingsthorpe Library and played a key role during last summer’s reading challenge. As a result, 256 children completed the summer challenge, reading 768 books between them. She also played a key role at a Frozen-themed event at the library, where she read to almost 200 children dressed as Anna.

Library manager Richard Boardman said: “Throughout this past year Mel has proven dependable and in many cases indispensable. She is popular with the children and more impressively she is popular with the parents who are happy for their little ones to rush and play with Mel when she is in the building. She has changed lives as these children now come to the library more regularly.”

Samuel, 11, has established an anti-bullying team at Sponne School after noticing that a couple of pupils were having difficulties. He identified safe places for pupils to spend their break-times and set up a helpline for them to call if they needed support. He is hoping to extend this project to other year groups at the school.

His teacher Sean Marshall said: “Sam’s real achievement has been to encourage and inspire the willing participation of other students to tackle a worthwhile cause and to have the drive and determination to make it succeed. That is why he is a true role model.”

The Taking Charge of Your Life Award – Skye Wheeler

Skye, 16, has battled a serious eye condition which resulted in numerous hospital stays and has been diagnosed with the chronic condition ME. Despite these challenges, she achieved good GCSE grades and has just started an apprenticeship as an assistant pharmacist.

Her grandmother Dawn Prosser said: “Skye is learning to manage with the very little energy that her illness allows here and through the many tears and heartache she soldiered on through her GCSE exams with very good grades. She has great tenacity and she wakes up every morning hoping she is well enough to get through her day.”