GALLERY: The best, and nothing but the best of awe inspiring Cambridgeshire youngsters as YOPEY winners celebrated

THIS year’s YOPEY awards showcased the very best of young people and their commitment to aiding the community and speaking to them showed that their passion flowed deep.

We first spotted an anxious looking David Ayeni, from Cambridge, who was in the final for promoting a green agenda at Cambridge Regional College.

David has just moved on to university and has already joined a number of societies in order continue being “green”. He said he could not wait to help out more.

We next spoke to another finalist Chelsi Beale from Peterborough. Chelsi has been involved with a Peterborough youth club for two years and has organised events to unify the local area. She said that her inspiration was the “lack of community spirit”. Chelsi wants to change things and hopes to soon become a member of the club board.

Afterwards we spoke to Michaela Miller, a 21-year-old single mum from Chesterton, who has set up mothers groups and supports her own ill mum.

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Michaela said that her favourite part of all the work that she has done was the fact that she was helping others. She feels it was definitely a success and that the awareness of drug and alcohol abuse, and sexual health has increased tremendously. “I just wanted to protect the students”.

We next met a uniform-clad Jessica Bradshaw. Jessica is a 19-year-old high-flying air cadet in Cambridge who has trained others in a 60-strong unit. When she was younger she was helped a huge amount at air cadets which was what inspired her to help the younger children when she grew up. “I wanted to give them everything back,” she said. “I would highly recommend anyone joining the air cadets as I have met loads of amazing people and have lots of extra qualifications behind me which have given me the opportunity at university.”

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Stood beside Jessica was one Katie Godfrey from Cottenham. Katie is 21 and was inspired by her African gap year to set up a charity to build classrooms. Katie stated how stressful everything was but how much she loved it, “I adored teaching out there, but I’m not so sure that I could teach in England,” she said. Her favourite part of all the fundraising is “counting all the money and announcing the result to everyone”.

We then spotted Helen Foster, from Huntingdon, who is 15-years-old and is a very quiet young lady but a serial fundraiser. She has so far raised �1,400 for several different charities by holding several different events. Helen said that she never wants to stop fundraising and wants to set up an auction or a talent show as they are her dream fundraising ideas. “I love fundraising but because I’m so shy, mum has to make all the phone calls,” said Helen when asked how much she enjoyed doing all her fundraising.

Frank Etherington was next in our sights, an 11-year-old who motivates his family and others at the Wisbech Rugby Club.

Frank hopes that he can complete his next fundraising activity – The London Marathon! Rugby has always been a passion of Frank’s and when asked what part of the fundraising he enjoyed the most he replied that “helping the club is the fun bit”.

Next in line were a handful of students from Swavesey Village College. They run the Kick Ash campaign which strives to educate young people about the dangers of smoking. They said they “aren’t telling smokers to stop, rather educating them about the dangers at an early age.”

Stood around the corner was Mackie Goddard from Bottisham. Mackie is 16 and has learned to control her anger, brought on when her parents split up, through helping out at the local children’s centre. Mackie was offered the placement at a children’s centre and wants to work with children when she is older. She advices anyone in her position to “take as much help as you can.”

Mohammed Atiq Nazir, known to his friends and family as Atiq, was one of the last finalists we spoke to. Atiq is 21 and has overcome a troubled past and helps to bring peace to a deprived area of Peterborough where he lives. Mohammed started Project 16-25 in order to make youngsters aware of drugs and the effects they can have on you. His aim is to get all of his clients back into work or education. He enjoys talking to them individually because he feels it is “more worthwhile because when they are all together they just tend not to listen”.

Looking up we spotted a haze of blue T-shirts being worn by the enthused science group CHaOS. CHaOS is a group of Cambridge University students who aim to make science fun for children. They hold events throughout the year for children to learn about science. They are organising a road show for schools in Cambridgeshire in December. When asked what their future plans were they said “we want to get bigger and better and keep doing what we do”.

The event began shortly after and consisted of an introduction by YOPEY founder Tony Gearing and descriptions of the nominees and their achievements being read to the audience by Ely College sixth-formers using an autocue as if they were real newsreaders. It wasn’t long before the winners were due to announced and the tension was mounting. One by one, the jubilated winners were announced to much applause, but all the finalists went away happy as all were repeatedly described as “Winners, who helping to give young people the fairer image they deserve”.

While the winners were being photographed by the press, we managed to talk to a few of the dignitaries who had attended the spectacular evening. Tom Green, Deputy Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, he stated that he was “utterly inspired” and that he truly believes that “volunteering makes the community strong” and that “there is the need for more and more volunteering.”

Following this, we managed hear from Bishops of Huntingdon and Ely, Stephen Conway and David who were also overwhelmed after the event and said that it was “absolutely brilliant”. They thoroughly enjoyed hearing the stories of all the amazing, inspirational young people and they felt that the pupils of Ely College were “representing a transformed school.”

We then spoke to Huntingdon College student Sam Kerrison, who represented former finalist Matthew Clifton, who had pulled out due to a reoccurrence of his depression. He said “I loved the awards and Matthew really does deserve this, he’s still a winner!”

Spotting a beaming Helen Foster, now Junior Yopey Winner across the venue, we went across to speak to her about what she was going to do with the money. “I’m just plain shocked to be honest, I can’t believe it. The money is going to be saved for future plans.”

Michaela Miller, who came in third, said: “I’m amazed” and when asked what she would do with the money, replied “I’m going to go out and treat myself”. This year’s joint winners came over to talk after their photos. Katie Godfrey said that she is going to spend her money on flights back to Africa to do some more work and was clearly shocked by her success “I genuinely thought I was out!” Finally, a very promising Mohammed Nazir, stated that he was “speechless, surprised and shocked”. His prize money is going to go to his youth work and a family party.

Overall the event provided an emotion-filled evening that was enjoyed by many from Ely and the rest of Cambridgeshire and will inspire fellow young people to achieve just as much and change many an opinion of young people today.

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