The Rotary Young Citizen Awards were launched in 2007 to overcome negative stereotypes of youngsters, and instead showcase and celebrate outstanding role-models under the age of 25.
I set up the awards with my then boss at BBC News and Rotary at a time when, as now, the headlines were so often dominated by bad news about youngsters and the aim was to show that the majority of young people are not like that but are out there doing good in the world.
Since then, hundreds of inspirational youngsters have been recognised and the awards have received extensive media coverage.
Every year, individuals or groups of young people are nominated by their local Rotary club to receive an award.
They include RotaKids, Interactors and Rotaractors.
So from helping the homeless to clothing children who live in poverty to helping tackle gangs and anti-social behaviour to being a wheelchair whizz kid on the tennis court, last year’s Young Citizen Award winners were truly amazing.
Nominees do not necessarily have to be working on a Rotary project to be eligible, they just have to be recognised by a local Rotary club as worthy of nomination.
Rotary Young Citizen WheelPower Sports Award
For the past three years, Rotary in Britain and Ireland has partnered with WheelPower, the UK wheelchair sports charity, to create the Rotary Young Citizen WheelPower Sports Award and we are looking for more nominations for 2019.
The purpose of the award is to recognise and highlight the achievements and contributions as a positive role model to others by a wheelchair sports participant or group.
Previous winners include 15-year-old Abbie Breakwell (featured on pages 10 and 11), Paralympians 17-year-old Kare Adenegan and 22-year-old Samantha (Sammi) Kinghorn, Scottish world champion wheelchair racer.
Rotary Young Citizen Peacemaker Award
A new award, the Rotary Young Citizen Peacemaker Award, reflecting Rotary’s area of focus on peace and conflict prevention/resolution, is being introduced for 2019.
This award will recognise young people, aged under 25, who have made a significant contribution by building peace and understanding, whether in their school, through their local community, by for example helping tackle anti-social behaviour and youth crime, or with a peace project internationally.
Winners of the Rotary Young Citizen Awards will be presented with their award from BBC TV presenter, Ellie Crisell, at the Rotary in Britain and Ireland Showcase in Nottingham on May 12th, 2019.
They will receive a trophy, certificate and a cheque for £500 to go to their chosen charity or project.
The deadline for nominations is February 28th, 2019.
An inspiring generation
Music has played a key role in the life of Grace O’Malley and her fundraising for charity from the age of 12.
She won her Young Citizen Award in 2013 after being nominated by Rotary Padiham near Burnley for raising tens of thousands of pounds for The Royal British Legion, a local hospice and cancer charities – and she’s got big ambitions for the future.
Grace, who turns 21 in February, plans to become a professional opera singer and is in her third year at the Royal College of Music studying for a Bachelor of Music, specialising in voice.
Her aim is to use her singing talent to raise one million pounds for charity.
She said: “Receiving a Rotary Young Citizen Award still remains my most precious and proudest achievement.
“Raising money for charity is a very big part of my life and ethos.
“I live with the mindset of, if I can’t help someone, then who can?
“Rotary inspired me to carry on this, having met the most inspiring people who have encouraged me to continue supporting many different charities.
“It’s helped craft me into the person I am today. So, thank you Rotary.”
Two Young Citizen Award winners have become Rotarians. Twenty-year-old Digital Youth Council founder Harry McCann, a 2017 Award winner, is now a member of the Rotary Naas in Ireland, who nominated him for the award.
Harry was also named as one of the ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World by Junior Chamber International.
I wanted to give back for what Rotary gave to me.”
Maciej Szukala, a 2010 winner, has become a member of the new-style Rotary Wrexham Glyndwr.
Maciej moved to Wrexham from Poland when he was ten years old.
He couldn’t speak any English and found starting his new life in the UK challenging. But within five years, he had become an active member of his community, teaching English to new migrant pupils and helping young refugees settle in.
Rotary Wrexham Yale nominated him for a Young Citizen Award for his work and he has gone on to start his own business “Legal Base” helping migrants and refugees.
Now aged 24, Maciej said: “Winning the award has completely changed my life. The award is on my desk at work every day to remind me about what I have already achieved and also to motivate me for what I can achieve for myself and the rest of the community in the future.
“I have joined Rotary because I wanted to give back for what Rotary gave to me.”
Bethany Hare was 12-years-old when Rotary Leeds nominated her for a Young Citizen Award in 2012 in recognition of the fundraising she’d been doing for a local children’s hospice. Since then, she’s continued to raise money to support young people with life-limiting illnesses, setting up her own charity, Bethany’s Smile.
Bethany said: “Receiving a Rotary Young Citizen Award has given me loads of opportunities and inspired me to continue fundraising because of all the other young inspirational award winners I met.
“The support from Rotarians and acknowledgement by Rotary of what I am doing is so important and so motivational.”