Dumfries and Galloway young people celebrated at annual Youth Awards

Hundreds of young people, invited guests and organisations from across the region gathered in Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries on Thursday to take part in the annual DG Youth Awards, which aims to celebrate the achievements and talents of young people from across the region.

The fourth annual awards were fully funded by the National Lottery and sponsored by 10,000 Voices in Action. A Winter Wonderland theme set the scene, which created a very special platform to showcase the fantastic young people and groups that we have across our region.

The evening got underway with an energetic performance by Razzamataz, followed by Finlay Anderson, Interim Chairperson of Dumfries and Galloway Youth Council with opening remarks and welcoming the audience to Easterbrook Hall.

After the audience enjoyed a gala dinner, Gillian Lithgow, Depute Chief Executive at Youth Link Scotland delivered a keynote speech in which she described the importance of Youth Work in building soft skills in young people linking to confidence and resilience building.

The audience then heard the remarkable and inspirational stories of the 24 finalists, who were shortlisted from over 200 nominations with the final category winners announced on the night.

The winners of the categories were:

Sport – Katy McGowan, Newton Stewart

Katy has been mountain biking since she was five years old and first competed at the age of eight. She has gone on to win national and international accolades in mountain biking and has travelled the world to participate in competitions. From a young age, Katy has dedicated her spare time to training and improving her performance – sticking to a strict schedule and training regime. Katy has given up a lot of social opportunities in order to perfect her skills and become the successful sports women that she is today.  She races in the PMBA Enduro series and currently holds the title of Juvenile Womens British Downhill Mountain bike Champion.

Katy has inspired many local young women to get involved in mountain biking. She is a member of the Galloway Hillbillies Bike Club and has been involved in helping to organise and run local mountain biking events in the area. Her achievements have put the local area on the map both nationally and internationally. Her family, friends and the local community are all extremely proud of Katy’s achievements.

Equality – Finlay Anderson, Newton Stewart

MSYP for Galloway and West Dumfries, Finlay Anderson is one of the Youth Council’s most pro-active Members. Finlay has undertaken several pieces of work that have focused on campaigning and advocating for more inclusivity and accessibility of services to young people who are marginalised due to challenges they may face with having an additional support need. This includes leading consultation and work within his school’s User Accessibility Group; running a campaign alongside a fellow MSYP that focused on utilising school’s spare supplies of laptops/desktop computers and ensuring young people are given these for learning opportunities; and submitting various motions to the Scottish Youth Parliament focusing on the accessibility of services for young people who are wheelchair users.

One of the best things to come out of Finlay’s journey is that he is now a Young Advisor to Bruce Adamson, the Children’s and Young Peoples Commissioner for Scotland – frequently working alongside Bruce on policy and making change for young people in his local area and across Scotland.

Health & Wellbeing – The Toon, Dumfries

The Toon is an interactive, issue-based drama production designed by young people for young people.  Through The Toon, the young people involved partake in a range of workshops and sessions to become peer educators on a range of topics relevant to young people across Dumfries & Galloway. The young people involved work with a variety of partner organisations to learn about topics including drugs & alcohol, sexual health, mental health, LGBT, domestic abuse and poverty. The young people involved write the script for the production, create the sets and props as well as acting in the final production. 

Through the production, the group showed other young people how the topics can affect them and the impact they can have. The scenes in the production were hard-hitting but end with the group showing where young people can go for support if they are affected by any of the topics and showing them that they are not alone.

All of the young people involved in the group have a huge passion to improve the lives of other young people in a way that is relevant and meaningful.

Participation – Jade Kirkpatrick, Dumfries

Jade is a selfless, enthusiastic and committed volunteer who has had a significant impact on others through her various volunteering roles. Since May 2021, Jade has been volunteering as a Young Leader at the Oasis Youth Centre, is a Member of the Young Women’s Network, a Digital Peer Educator, and more recently a member of the Youth Matters Conference Steering Group.

She has contributed hundreds of hours of volunteering – taking part in training, workshops and events to upskill herself and support those she is working alongside. Jade’s contribution to these projects and the community more widely has helped to ensure that young people’s voices are heard and that they are given the opportunity to use these when decisions are being made.

Using her voice to make positive changes for other young people. Her personal commitment to supporting others and giving back to the community is second to none. She is humble, never asking for recognition and always willing to give up her time to help others.

Culture – Mia Osborne, Thornhill

Mia is an outstanding young woman who at the age of 22 has grown a foundation of experience and knowledge for herself in arts and culture with a particular focus on community engagement and working collaboratively with other young people to develop and deliver creative work and build opportunities in peer-to-peer learning for others.

Mia has been a champion for the role that arts and culture can play in the lives of young people across Dumfries and Galloway. She is passionate about increasing access for those less represented in this sector by raising awareness of the opportunities it presents and growing those opportunities for young people locally, particularly those without traditional career progression routes.

Inspiring Voice – Sarah Lunney, Ecclefechan

Sarah has been a youth member of Lockerbie and Ecclefechan youth groups since she was 12 years old.  She progressed to become a volunteer at these groups when she was 14, and at age 15 became a young leader. She continues to volunteer her time twice a week, and freely gives up her weekends to attend young leaders residentials where she continues to take part in training and development sessions.  Sarah has also given up her time at weekends to attend LGBT Residentials where, she has supported and made new friends with common interests, she has encouraged other LGBT young people and their allies to actively participate, which has provided Sarah and the young people with a sense of belonging, and purpose.

Sarah has amazing teamwork skills and is an effective communicator, Sarah has worked very hard to make herself stand out from the other volunteers to become a young leader.  She has demonstrated that she is committed and that she cares about making her community a better, safer place for young people

Unsung Hero – Connor Donowho, Dumfries

Connor consistently shows a real compassion for supporting others and really stands out from our other amazing volunteers. He goes over and beyond to help others in the community regardless of their age, circumstances, or background.

Connor co-ordinates and facilitates several youth activities each week in a calm, quiet and confident manner that is showing to have a real positive ripple effect amongst others.

He also inspires his own peer group and the senior youth committee with his positive role model approach. He is Chairperson of the Youth Project and is an excellent example of ‘Young People taking the Lead’.

Environment – Summerhill Community Centre, Dumfries

The constant commitment of young people who form the ‘Base’ Youth Committee, Summerhill Youth Project enables a wide-ranging weekly youth programme, 50 weeks per year, over 25 hours per week for children and young people. They provide outdoor weekend pursuits to raise awareness of local beauty and look after the environment, carry out community clean up tasks, litter picks, sports competitions, and evening mystery tours.

Their ongoing willingness to plan, prepare, organise and help deliver activities and weekend events, school holiday programmes and town centre events have had a significant impact upon the lives of many other young people at a very grassroots level. Their logo is ‘By the Community – For the Community’

Youth Work Project – Young Hands, Kelloholm, Kirkconnel, Sanquhar

Young Hands is a young parent’s group for parents under 25 years of age in Sanquhar, Kirkconnel and Kelloholm. The group has made a significant different to the lives of the young parents and their children that access the group, but also wider in terms of some of the work they have been involved in. The group have influenced a Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Service locally where they gave their view on barriers that might occur for them accessing these services but also what creative ideas they had about how they can reach out to young parents. This allowed the parents the opportunity to talk honestly about their positive and negative experiences to a professional from the NHS which would in turn help influence this service.

This incredible group of young parents are a credit to themselves, their families and their community. Despite everything that has happened they have showed the up most support, strength and unity as a group and this is something incredibly special and shows the real and vital impact youth work has had on their lives.

Youth Worker of the Year – Mark Dawson, Dumfries

Mark dedicates his time to making a difference to the lives of young people in Dumfries, through his boxing club Nith Valley Boxing. He is very highly thought of coach volunteer who dedicates his time and effort into the boxing club. Being a mentor for many, trusted adult and going that extra mile, guiding young people to believe in themselves to step out their comfort zone and recognise their own potential without asking for anything in return. Mark works hard to make sure that there are no barriers to anyone participating in sessions, making sure that groups are accessible to all.

Mark has made a massive difference to both young people and the community. He has created a space for young people to access sport and fitness and also a space for young people to thrive within themselves. Mark creates many opportunities for young people whether that be giving young people an opportunity to travel the country, the opportunity to access the gym. Mark is such a genuine person and is always encouraging young people to join the boxing, direct their anger or anti-social behaviour into something better, encouraging them to be better and to see that there are no barriers to getting you to your goal, there is always a way!

The evening was brought to a close by Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Communities Committee, Councillor Archie Dryburgh, who reflected on key youth work achievements in 2022 and congratulated the youth work sector in Dumfries and Galloway for continuing to deliver high quality and sector leading youth work opportunities in our region. 

Following a live audience vote on the evening, the winner of the Health and Wellbeing award – The Toon – was awarded the ‘Young Person of the Year 2022’ award. 

Speaking after the event, Councillor Dryburgh said: “The Youth Awards was a fun-filled evening celebrating the value, diversity and vitality of youth work in Dumfries and Galloway.  The stories and journeys of the young people who received awards are inspirational and I am extremely proud of their achievements. Youth work is happening in all of our communities, towns and villages in Dumfries and Galloway, and as a region we should be proud of that.”

The Dumfries and Galloway Youth Awards were fully funded by the National Lottery and 10,000 Voices.

Vice-chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Communities Committee, Councillor John Campbell said: “We are incredibly grateful to our funders at the National Lottery and 10,000 Voices for making the DG Youth Awards 2022 possible. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all winners, finalists, those who were awarded certificates, and I would also like to thank every young person from across Dumfries and Galloway for continuing to provide a source of positivity and inspiration in such uncertain times for us all.”