Local youth project Young Citizens was presented with a Philip Lawrence Award at a special event, organised by crime reduction charity, Nacro, at Lewisham Town Hall last night. They were joined by Mrs Frances Lawrence MBE and the Hon Tim Loughton MP, Department for Education, who presented them with the award. The Mayor and Young Mayor of Lewisham also attended the celebration.
Founded in July 2009 by six year 7 pupils in Prendergast Ladywell Fields College, Young Citizens connects young people concerned about violence and crime with the individuals and organisations who can help, with the aim of improving the safety of the Lewisham community and the lives of those within it. It has now developed into a group of 150 students who frequently meet with Lewisham’s Mayor, MPs, local councillors and the Police to voice their ideas regarding community change.
Young Citizens have worked together to fund, organise and run six campaigns, all with the aim of changing their community for the better. Each one, from ‘City Safe Havens’ and ‘Road Safety’ to their environmentally friendly ‘Litter’ and ‘Eco-team’ campaigns, emphasises the importance of social responsibility and active involvement in order to make communities safer for everyone.
The Young Citizen’s activities also have a broader national and international resonance, and they aim to work with other PLAnet nominees to make an even bigger difference, as well as investigating work in Baltimore and Africa.
Project member, Camilla Yahaya, said:
“If you had told me two years ago that we would win a national award I would not have believed you. We established the Young Citizens Project because we wanted to become more involved in our community, we wanted to challenge peoples’ views of young people and let people hear our positive voices.
“It has been a hard couple of years, early mornings and late nights, successes and disappointments. Slowly though, we have seen our community come together to help and support us, we have found our place and voice.
“Our local police are now our friends, our local council and politicians listen and support our campaigns. We and our college have become a living part of our community, active citizens with a voice, we are a positive and proud force for change.”
Frances Lawrence MBE, the Awards’ founder said:
“Young Citizens are an inspiring example of how young people can be a force for positive change in their community.”
Speaking at the event, Hon Tim Loughton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, Department for Education, said:
“Young Citizens is an example of giving power to local communities – it is led and inspired by young people.
“Too many people have a bit of a downer on young people and actually young people are nearly all good, but we only hear about the bad bits, and we hear about the bad bits disproportionately – I do hope that the media report on achievements and groups like this.
“Young people are 20% of the population and 100% of our future – Philip Lawrence said young people are capable of greatness. [Young Citizens] today are proof of that.”
The Philip Lawrence Awards, managed by the crime reduction charity, Nacro and supported by the Home Office, celebrate the positive contribution groups of young people make in their communities to counter crime, violence, bullying and racism, and challenge negative stereotypes.
Photograph by Bob Fallon