An A-level student who is mentoring younger pupils and wants to become a social worker, is in a competition that hails the ‘giving to others’ of Bedfordshire’s younger generation.
Seventeen-year-old Jodie Sullivan spends one day a week mentoring 9-12 year-olds at her old middle school, Robert Bloomfield Academy in Shefford.
Jodie was “shocked and overwhelmed” at being nominated for the Atlas Converting Young People of the Year awards or ‘YOPEYs’ – Oscars for young people who ‘give to others’.
The annual contest has over £1000 to be won by Bedfordshire young people who are positive role models. There will be at least two Beds Young People of the Year. A senior YOPEY, aged 17-25, winning £500, and a junior YOPEY, aged 10-16, winning £300. Either prize can be won by an individual or group and the winners have to invest most of their winnings in their good cause but can keep £100 to treat themselves. There will also be several £100 runners-up prizes.
Jodie, of The Acres, Meppershall, was nominated by Adam Payn of Youth Action, a body that organises volunteering opportunities for young people in Central Bedfordshire.
Adam said: “Jodie started volunteering at Robert Bloomfield Academy last year. She worked alongside the pastoral team and was tasked with supporting children with anxiety and low self-esteem.
“Jodie has been working hard to mentor students, aiming to build confidence and deal with everyday challenges such as getting a bus and managing friendships.
“Jodie plans to be a social worker and strives to make a difference to as many lives as she possibly can. She has gained a lot from her mentoring, including building her own confidence, developing teamwork skills and a growing sense of independence.”
As well as being nominated for a YOPEY, Jodie has already been awarded certificates for volunteering for 10, 30 and 50 hours.
Jodie said: “I have always known that I wanted a career working with or alongside children and in the last couple of years decided that I want a career in social work.
“To do a social work degree at university I need to complete volunteering within a similar field. When the opportunity arose to volunteer in the pastoral area of Robert Bloomfield, I jumped at the chance.”
Jodie used to attend Robert Bloomfield, although she is now taking her A-levels at Shefford’s upper school, Samuel Whitbread Academy.
Jodie went on: “I dedicate one day a week to Robert Bloomfield as this fits nicely around my studying for final exams. One of my roles is mentoring pupils between the ages of 9 and 12 years old.
“From this experience I have been able to build a quality rapport with many of the students. This has meant that they have felt comfortable to approach me with friendship advice or for simply a quiet talk.”
Jodie wants to become a social worker “because I want to make a difference to people’s lives. Currently, I wish to focus my attention on children’s social work as I feel that at these young and vulnerable ages children should be able to experience a life full of love and laughter opposed to some of the unthinkable experiences that some may have to go through.
“For some children the hope of such a good life is only possible with the help from social workers and this is what I hope to achieve.”
Jodie said she was proud at achieving 81 hours of volunteering so far but “I have been so shocked and overwhelmed at having been nominated for this award”.
YOPEY has been praised by national leaders including former prime ministers and the new Education Secretary for seeking out ‘ordinary’ young people who contribute “something extraordinary to their communities”.
Justine Greening MP said: “The awards provide an inspiration for other young people – and for adults – that even in difficult circumstances young people can find ways to help others and change the world around them.”
YOPEY started in Bedfordshire in 2006 and has expanded to many other counties. Its founder, former national newspaper journalist Tony Gearing, said: “There are many young people in Bedfordshire doing wonderful things for others. It’s just that they live in the shadow of a well-publicised anti-social minority.
“We need to give young people the respect they deserve and set up the best as positive role models for others to copy rather than focusing on the small number who appear in the press for negative reasons.”
About Jodie, Tony said: “I hope Jodie achieves her goal of becoming a social worker. She is already showing she has the qualities to become a very good one.”
As well as Atlas Converting, which is based in Wolseley Road, Kempston, this year’s Beds YOPEY is sponsored by the county’s fire & rescue service and recruitment company Guidant Group.
The YOPEY charity has also received grants from Bedfordshire & Luton Community Foundation, the Gale Family Trust and Wixamtree.
The Bedfordshire awards will be presented at St John’s College, Cambridge, this autumn when a joint ceremony with Cambridgeshire young people will be held. But each county will have its own Young People of the Year.
# Do you know somebody who deserves the title Young Person of the Year? To nominate logon to yopey.org or write, enclosing a stamped-addressed-envelope, to YOPEY, Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road, Stradishall, Newmarket CB8 8YN for a paper entry form. Entries close on July 31st.