Council welcomes success of young peoples’ Achievement Awards

Isla O’Brien from Alness and Ian Murray, Chief Executive of High Life Highland were recently congratulated by Highland Councillors on their personal and organisational successes in attaining and improving the uptake of young peoples’ Achievement Awards.

Now working towards her Gold Youth Achievement Award, Senior Alness Academy pupil Isla O’Brien gave an illuminating presentation to members of the Council’s Education, Children and Adult Services Committee.

Isla said: “Four years ago, I would never have been able to give this speech in public as I was previously very shy. Working on my Achievement Award increased my confidence dramatically. It has been a very worthwhile experience and has made me realise that I want a career working with people.”

Achievement Awards encourage young people to reflect on their learning and help them to apply skills gained in other contexts. They can include: The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award; Youth Achievement Awards; Dynamic Youth Awards; High Life Highland Leadership Award; Saltire Awards; John Muir Award, Lord Lieutenant’s Award for Young People; and Young Scot Rewards.

Ian Murray, High Life Highland’s Chief Executive said: “The breadth of activity and opportunity now available through Achievement Awards can provide something for everyone which is reflected in more children being involved. The Duke of Edinburgh Award on its own is an excellent scheme but it’s not for everyone. So it’s been great to see other schemes emerging and happening at the same time as Curriculum for Excellence has evolved, creating wider opportunities for young people to develop skills.”

He added: “Achievement Awards involve: employment skills; social development; community development; working together and team building. The feedback from young people is that they obtain greater personal pride; feel more confident and achieve things they would previously have never thought possible. It encourages our young people to get involved in volunteering working with younger children, helping them to achieve for themselves. This is about refreshing community activity from the grass roots. As our older volunteers move on we are creating a host of younger volunteers are emerging. An Achievement Award also gives young people something to show employers and it is their experiences that often sparks employer’s interest in them as a person.”

Isla O’Brien outlined to members what she had been doing during her years at Alness Academy that led her to working towards her Gold Youth Achievement award. In addition to participating in a winning Rock Challenge entry, Isla has engaged in peer education, a playscheme, and she is leading the organisation of a Christmas Community Fayre.

Through peer education she worked with a group of 10 young people on a networking event and senior pupils’ questionnaire to find out what information young people would like to receive on sexual health and substance misuse. Their findings are being used to motivate young people in S5 and S6 to learn more about sexual health.

Last year Isla took part as a leader in the Alness summer Playscheme – part of which involved a trip away near Aviemore involving outdoor activities for primary P4-7 pupils. She worked with others to help younger children enjoy a range of activities from gorge walking to mountain biking. She also taught them domestic skills from hoovering to washing dishes and supported young people who were not confident at activities.

Isla is currently working with her local community council to arrange a Christmas Fayre. She is gathering a group of young people and identifying tasks that need to be done.

Chairman of the Council’s ECAS Committee Councillor Drew Millar said: “We can all realise the benefits of young people getting involved in achievement awards. The awards are very powerful and it’s great to see the support they are giving to our young people. I thank Isla for coming along today; her presentation has been very informative and encouraging and I would like to thank all the High Life Highland staff for their excellent work.”

Local Ward Member for Cromarty Firth, Councillor Mike Finlayson added: “Well done Isla you have set your targets high and I am sure that you will achieve everything that you wish for. Isla is an excellent ambassador for the town of Alness. I would like to thank the staff behind the scenes that are supporting Isla and others like her to reach their own personal achievements.”

Youth Convener, Kat Bateson said: “Isla’s success is a great example of how fantastic Achievement Awards can be and how young people are changing our communities, with their will and determination, across the Highlands. The awards are really important for young peoples’ development and it’s vital that all young Highlanders have the opportunity to access them and take part.”

12 Oct 2015
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