Make a mark to make a change

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Two members of Central Bedfordshire’s Youth Parliament have set an ambitious target in a bid to get young people’s voices heard.

The annual Make Your Mark ballot, the largest consultation of young people in the country, opens on Friday (12 August) and will run until 5 October.

It will see youngsters across the country asked what issues matter most to them, in order to determine what is debated by the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) in the House of Commons on 11 November.

Ahead of that date, Lily Thompson (Member of Youth Parliament) and Ollie Ashwell (Deputy Member of Youth Parliament) attended the 16th annual sitting of the UK Youth Parliament, in order to prepare for the House of Commons debate.

Lily, 12, is a former Biggleswade Academy pupil and will be moving on to Stratton Upper School in September. Ollie, also 12, and a former Brooklands Middle pupil who will be moving up to Vandyke next month, were both elected to Central Bedfordshire Youth Parliament and UK Youth Parliament in February 2016.

The pair, along with 250 other members of the UK Youth Parliament, heard from Afghan political refugee and campaigner Gulwali Passarlay.

During the recent three-day event at York University the delegates debated issues that affect young people, and took part in workshops and skill sessions. They also voted to decide which ten topics should be incorporated in the UK Youth Parliament manifesto.

These will form the basis of the ballot, which is open to all 11 to 18 year olds. The top five topics will be debated at the House of Commons in November with one then chosen as the UK Youth Parliament’s priority campaign.

Lily said: “There was a very positive atmosphere and it shows that young people are becoming more empowered within our society.

“We got to work with lots of MYPs from across the country and I now feel really inspired to make Central Bedfordshire a great place for young people.

“Ollie and I have set ourselves the target of getting at least 6,000 ballot papers filled out from Central Bedfordshire to ensure that the area is very well represented in the House of Commons debate.”

Ollie added: “This event helped us (as part of the UK Youth Parliament) campaign and debate about issues that matter to young people of Central Bedfordshire.”

Voting takes places both online and through ballot papers issued in schools and youth centres.

Last year’s Make Your Mark ballot saw almost 970,000 young people taking part nationally, including 4,295 in Central Bedfordshire.

>To have your say, visit www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/makeyourmark