February-March 2020 | Articles

Young role models who are making a difference

Young role models who are making a difference

Eve Conway, Founder and Co-ordinator of the Rotary Young Citizen Awards reflects on some of the talented and hard-working youngsters who, over the years, have previously won this prestigious honour.

The Rotary Young Citizen Awards are a fantastic opportunity for young people, and they showcase Rotary at its best, attracting extensive media coverage every year, especially on BBC News.

So this is a great way to recognise positive young role models making a difference in our communities, either an outstanding individual or a group, under the age of 25, by nominating them for a Rotary Young Citizen Award 2020.

Hundreds of amazing young people have been nominated by Rotary clubs across Great Britain and Ireland for Young Citizen Awards since they were launched in 2007 to counter negative stereotypes of young people and showcase the good work which so many youngsters are doing to help others, locally and globally.

From tackling issues around mental health, child poverty, anti-social behaviour, through to campaigning against plastics pollution to supporting cancer patients, the homeless, migrants and refugees.

These are young people who are real “changemakers”, stepping up today to change the world for the better for tomorrow. Through their amazing work, they are inspiring other young people.

Like winner Grace O’Malley, now aged 21, who received her Rotary Young Citizen Award in 2013 after being nominated by Padiham Rotary for using her singing talents to raise tens of thousands of pounds for The Royal British Legion, a local hospice and cancer charities.

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 supporting many different charities.

“It’s helped craft me into the person I am today. So, thank you Rotary.”

Grace plans to become a professional opera singer and is studying for a Bachelor of Music at the Royal College of Music. Her aim is to use her singing talent to raise one million pounds for charity.

The Rotary Young Citizen WheelPower Sports Award winner in 2018 was 16-year-old Abbie Breakwell, who was President of Long Eaton Interact Club in Derbyshire for two years, and continues to go from strength to strength. She was nominated by Long Eaton Rotary who started the Interact Club at her school.

In the past year, Abbie has won 12 titles in the National Wheelchair Tennis Series, including being ranked as Great Britain’s number one girl and being crowned in 2019 the LTA Women’s National Wheelchair Tennis Series’ singles and doubles champion.

These young people are real changemakers”

She has organised inclusive sports days at local primary schools, coaching wheelchair tennis, and is passionate about empowering women in disability sport.

Do you know someone who’s got what it takes?

This year, we are introducing an exciting new award. The Rotary Young Citizen Sporting Hero Award 2020 recognises the achievement and contribution as a positive role model, of an able-bodied or disabled sports participant, or a group, under the age of 25, who is enabling others to participate in sport.

It’s an opportunity to recognise someone in your community, or a group, which has achieved exceptional things in the world of sport – either able-bodied, or disability sport.

This is one of a number of categories which Rotarians across Great Britain and Ireland are being encouraged to nominate.

The closing date for nominations is fast approaching on February 14th.

For a second year, we are also delighted to offer the Rotary Young Citizen Peacemaker Award, reflecting Rotary’s area of focus on peacebuilding and conflict prevention.

This award recognises young people who have made a significant contribution by building peace and understanding, whether in their school, for example, as peer mentors, within their local community, or with a peace project internationally.

Nominations can be for an individual or group under the age of 25.

Winners will receive a trophy, certificate and a fantastic, relevant vocational experience.

The awards will be presented by the BBC TV presenter, Ellie Crisell, at the Volunteer Expo in Birmingham on Saturday, May, 2nd.

Winners are also eligible to be put forward for a Diana Award.

Begun in 1999, in memory of Diana, the Princess of Wales, this prestigious award acknowledges her belief that young people have the power to change the world for the better.

Rotary Young Citizen Award 2015 winner Bella Field, nominated by Redbridge Rotary, was chosen as one of 12 outstanding young people from across the world to take centre stage for The Diana Award’s Change Makers campaign to mark the 20th anniversary of the awards.


Bella, now aged 14, has helped to raise more than £120,000 for Haven House Children’s Hospice in memory of her sister Molly who died from a brain tumour at the age of eight.

Bella has also become a ‘buddy’ for other children who have siblings with life-limiting illnesses.

She was invited by past Rotary International President Gary Huang to speak at the Rotary International Convention in Brazil.

So if you know of an outstanding, inspirational young person or group, under the age of 25, whose citizenship and dedication to a good cause, project or projects deserves national recognition, please nominate them.

If you are a member of the public or an organisation and want to make a nomination, contact your local Rotary Club.

Nominees do not necessarily have to be working on a Rotary project to be eligible.

For more details and to download this year’s Guidance Notes and Nomination Form, visit our youth competition page.

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