Day 232- Jessica, 17, Ayr

Currently I am studying Primary Education and Social and Public Policy at the University of Glasgow, and have just started the second semester of my first year. In my spare time I am Chair of South Ayrshire Youth Forum, which is a group of 19 young people from across South Ayrshire who volunteer their time to represent young people, we annually hold a youth conference, themes have recently been mental health and what matters most, as well as this we hold an awards ceremony which recognises the achievements of our young people. Finally we attend events throughout South Ayrshire and most recently held a workshop at the Youthlink Youth Conference on our mental health project, which received 1197 responses from young people which accurately shows the effect mental health has on our young people and has allowed us to come up with an action plan in order to help our young people with mental health still being a huge issue for young people (4159 young people in 2017 voted in the Make Your Mark ballot (UKYP campaign selection) and mental health came out top).

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Which young Scot inspires you?
Every young people are inspiring in their own way, and in my 3 years as being a youth representative I have met hugely inspiring young people who do things that I could never dream of doing. The Young Scots that have been most memorable to me are the finalists who attend the South Ayrshire Youth Forum Awards. These young people to amazing things in 2014 our overall star couldn’t attend the awards as she was volunteering in Romania helping children in the most deprived areas of the world, the 2017 overall star winner ran two half marathons to support people going through mental health and then we have young carers who go above and beyond.

What is the best thing about growing up in Scotland?
Scotland is a beautiful place to live, and living next to the sea only furthers the amazing scenery we have, but most importantly in South Ayrshire we have people who listen to us, from teachers, to youth worker, to councillors and even the leader of the council truly listens and value our opinions on topics affecting us. Even more importantly we can see active change in our community; when mental health was raised as an issue most important to young people and the findings of the Say It Out Loud report were released the head of the council jumped at the opportunity to help our young people and know by working towards a charter mark for schools’ change will be even more obvious to young people.

What would you most like people from older generations to know about young people?
The perception of some of our older community towards young people is that we do little of anything, when in fact young people are doing a tremendous amount of work on a daily basis. I would love to further highlight this to the older generation and change their perspective, as not all young people sit around and do nothing they are out volunteering in the community, looking after their environment and helping others, but often goes unnoticed.

What is your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement to date, in my opinion, is the boost of confidence I have had since third year. In my first years of academy I have probably the quietest person you would ever meet, I struggled to speak up in class and if you told me that I would go on to host a youth conference with a hundred plus young people I would never have believed you. This is due to the continuous work of youth workers who pushed me to speak up and I went from attending class presentations, to house assemblies and then onto holding the annual South Ayrshire Youth Conference.

What would you most like to achieve in the future?
In short term, I would love to further highlight the results of our mental health survey, Say It Out Loud, and have schools working on a continuous path towards a better and more comprehensive attitude towards mental health. In the long term, however, I hope to pass the next four years of university and go on to be a practicing primary schools teacher.

What message would you like to give to other young people in Scotland?
I would tell young people to not be afraid of doing anything, don’t be afraid to speak out and have your voice heard someone is always here to listen and support you. Be the person you want to be and don’t let anyone stop you from fulfilling your dreams! This is important message to me because so many young people do amazing things but don’t share them because of fear of ridicule or not being accepted, but in fact their work which creates the diversity that makes South Ayshire so special


If Jessica’s story has inspired you, why not share it on social media using the hashtag #MyStory365 or visit the ‘Get Involved’ section to share your own story!

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