Members of a newly formed youth group in Wigan borough are hoping their recent awards success can help showcase their potential to the local community.
Atherton and Tyldesley Youth Voice was highly commended for its social action work by the British Youth Council earlier this year.
Its members are keen to use the recognition as a springboard to prove they can be a force for positive change amongst both young people and in wider society.
The group have been focussed on issues such as bullying, hate crime and raising awareness of mental health support since the group’s formation by Wigan Council two years ago.
Councillor Susan Gambles, lead member for youth opportunities, said:
“In a short time, this group has thrown themselves into a number of projects to try and make a difference to some big social issues, with real success.
“I’m proud of them for their hard work and it’s fantastic they have had this recognition from the regional branch of the BYC.
“I am very much looking forward to seeing what they take on next.”
The group has always been passionate about tackling bullying and before lockdown worked with Manchester based arts company Odd Arts to produce a video highlighting the different forms of hate crime and encouraging young people to report any issues in their school or youth group.
They also worked with Wigan and Leigh Youth Cabinet on their project to improve mental health support for young people, by attending local events and encouraging other young people to get involved and share their views.
Kenzie, 15, is a talented artist, who hopes to become a psychologist when he is older.
“I do understand that if someone has had a bad experience with a young person, they might think every kid is like that, but we want to help people.
“Acting in the hate crime video meant I got used to being on camera and it really boosted my confidence.”
During lockdown, the group continued to meet digitally and created their own videos for social media, where they thanked the NHS for their hard work and encouraged all young people to respect the Government’s guidelines.
In October, the group began to meet in person again and inspired by the Black Lives Matter campaign, asked if they could get involved in Wigan Council’s work on Black History Month.
The young people worked in partnership with young people from Leigh on their next video project; researching and discussing their own inspirational black figures from history, to help raise awareness of the importance black history holds in society today.
“This is a good place to express ourselves as everyone can speak out about stuff they might not speak to others about.”
Kyle, 17, lives on the Hag Fold estate in Atherton and has been coming to the group for 18 months.
“I’ve changed since coming along to this group.
“I used to be all mouth but now I’m more mature and more respectful towards others.
“Some young people can be anti-social and so we all get grouped together.
“It gets frustrating when I’m trying hard to improve myself.
“I’ve learned not to judge anyone and to let everyone be heard.”
As we enter the next phase of lockdown, the young people are determined to continue their social action work and can see the benefits it offers themselves as well as others.
Shannon, 17, has just secured a new job at a local firm of solicitors.
“I never used to talk much before coming to this group.
“Now I’m really comfortable chatting with everybody.
“I like that we’re doing good things in our community because it makes people happy.
“I like making other people happy so that makes me happy too.”
To find out more about Atherton and Tyldesley Youth Voice, email Wigan Council’s targeted youth support services at [email protected]