The achievements of some outstanding young people have been celebrated by Rotary Great Britain & Ireland at the 17th Rotary Young Citizen Awards.
The awards ceremony took place at St Benedict’s School in Alcester, Stratford-Upon Avon on Saturday 29th April and was hosted by previous winners Grace O’Malley and Theodor Sergiou.
The Rotary Young Citizen Awards were started to celebrate the amazing achievements of inspirational young people across Great Britain and Ireland, many of whom have made a positive impact on their community and beyond at a very young age.
Within the Young Citizen Awards there are also awards for Young Peacemaker, Young Environmentalist, Young Sporting Hero and three Children of Courage – young people who have made great accomplishments in the face of personal adversity.
Meet this year’s incredible winners!
Ella (Eloise) Pennycott, nominated by Brentwood a Becket Rotary Club
18-year-old Ella has been recognised for her work raising awareness and fighting for the rights of the deaf community.
Having lost her hearing at the age of 13, Ella joined the National Deaf Children’s Society’s (NDCS) young people’s advisory board and with them she formed a campaign called “Deaf Works Everywhere”.
In the years since she has spoken in parliament, written a play that became the first to debut at the National Theatre with British Sign language as its primary language, and been a consultant to author Frances Hardinge about deafness and deaf culture for her book Deeplight.
She is now focussed on continuing as a playwright, actor, and fight director but is also planning a mental health campaign for people who experience deafness later in life.
Matthew Howard, nominated by Thorpe Bay Rotary Club
For the past two years, 16-year-old Matthew has been developing GAEE UK – a youth-led charity dedicated to improving financial literacy and economic education.
GAEE UK has developed a student blog and YouTube channel where they have published over 50 articles, videos and book reviews that have been read over 13,000 times around the world.
The charity has also developed online seminars that introduce young people to economics content beyond the A-level syllabus to prepare them for university life.
Matthew’s plan is to introduce a life skills course geared towards secondary school students over the next year.
Landon Maynard, nominated by Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club
When he was 9 years old, Landon had a desire to give local families and children a different activity to do that everyone could take part in which led to him forming ‘The Lego Legends’, a Lego-building group at his local community centre in Hartcliffe, one of the most underprivileged areas of Bristol.
The Lego Legends became the fastest growing group ever held at the community centre leading to Landon securing a larger venue to accommodate everyone who wanted to take part, showing incredible problem-solving skills for such a young age.
As Lego Legends Leader, Landon, who’s now aged ten and has suffered social anxiety, helps all the children with building their Lego, including children with social anxiety disorders such as ADHD and autism.
He worked with the community centre and Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club to get all the children a well-deserved trip to Lego Land in Windsor.
Ben Kane, nominated by The Rotary Club of Gourock
17-year-old Ben has worked tirelessly over the past 3 years to ensure that his school offers vital support to students who have recently experienced a bereavement after his brother died.
Ben founded the Clydeview Bereavement Support Group alongside a member of staff so that every child at the school had the opportunity to get the help they deserved.
The support group offers grieving students activities and 1-1 sessions to help them feel supported during a potentially isolating experience.
Ben continues to encourage other schools to offer this support, recently meeting with local MSP Stuart MacMillan to discuss the Scottish government’s plans to support young people through bereavement.
Aarya Patil, nominated by The Rotary Club of Jersey
At just 15 years old, Aarya already has a staggering list of achievements that shows her care and dedication for issues such as mental health and cultural diversity.
In 2022, Aarya organised a ‘Festival of Cultures’ for over 700 students and staff at her college in Jersey where everyone could take part in different workshops that displayed the diverse range of cultures at the college.
Furthering her interest in cultural awareness, Aarya is currently part of the Cultural Centre Steering Group, a working party set up by the Government of Jersey looking to promote cultural diversity and arts within the local community.
Aarya is also a team member of the Mental Health Campaign as part of the Youth Parliament in Jersey, with the group promoting mental health awareness for young people across the island.
In February 2022, Aarya delivered a talk on Period Hygiene for students at a secondary school in Nagpur, India and would like to extend this project to include rural schools where it is recognised that the problem of girls leaving education due to menstruation is more pronounced.
Jasmine Harrison, nominated by The Rotary Club of Thirsk
In 2021, Jasmine became the youngest woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Not content with just one world record, Jasmine became the first woman to swim the entire length of the UK in 2022.
Jasmine’s swim was to raise money for marine conservation charity Sea Shepherd UK and Surfers Against Sewage.
Jasmine is driven by her desire for a cleaner world and wants to show that anyone can do whatever they put their mind to despite what obstacles may be in the way.
She is a motivational public speaker encouraging and enthusing young people to aspire and reach their potential whilst raising vital funds for Rotary, Shelterbox and environmental charities.
Rotary Young Citizen Environmentalist Award
Nina Kirk, nominated by The Rotary Club of Gourock
17-year-old Nina has always been passionate about the environment and started doing a litter pick to help achieve her Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Her efforts led to her speaking at the “Take Pride in Inverclyde” Eco Summit Workshop where she spoke about her passion for the environment.
Nina then spoke to a range of MP’s and environmentalists at COP 26 as a Net Zero Ambassador for the UK.
Nina and her school also recently emerged victorious in the Dive Project, a competition that took place across Scotland challenging students to create an animal out of plastic and write an essay on why protecting the oceans is important, which Nina was heavily involved in every step of the way.
Young Citizen Sporting Hero
Alex Williams and Serenity Scott (NXT Generation MMA Teesside), nominated by The Rotary Club of Guisborough & Great Ayton
17-year-old Alex and 21-year-old Serenity are both Brazilian jiu-jitsu champions who had trained together for several years.
When Alex suffered an unprovoked attack during his first month of sixth form college and defended himself with a jiu-jitsu move (caught on video that went viral), he and Serenity felt inspired to share their skills with their fellow students.
This led to them founding NXT Generation MMA Teesside – a club that runs self-defence sessions for under 12s.
With support from the Roseberry Community Consortium, they were able to open their gym in December 2021 and now train up to 20 children on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Both the children who take part and their parents have commended Alex and Serenity’s efforts and Alex was awarded a ‘Bill Peacock Award’ – awarded to young people who show community spirit – by Guisborough & Great Ayton Rotary Club.
Young Citizen Peacemaker Award
Yanick Maseko, nominated by Newton-le-Willows Rotary Club
19-year-old Yanick has been using music as an effective way of dispelling misconceptions about autism and other types of neurodivergence.
An autistic adult himself, he has broken down barriers with the success of his music on his Spotify and YouTube pages, leading to him being able to remix one of his songs with a professional music producer at the world-renowned Tileyard Studios in London.
Yanick has endeared himself to everyone at his college with his willingness to help and support other students – he set up the college band Electric Stars as a means of raising the profile of autism within the local community and acting as a means of music therapy for his peers.
Yanick has also been an integral part of his student council, representing his college at the Natspec Student Parliament and discussing how they can become more involved in the local community.
Young Citizen Children of Courage Award
Liliane Cunliffe, nominated by Rugby Rotary Club
In 2020, eight-year-old Liliane was diagnosed with Absence Epilepsy, and through investigations into her epilepsy, it was discovered that she has a brain deformity called Polymicrogyria. From then, Liliane decided that she wanted to help support people with epilepsy.
She took part in the Epilepsy Society’s Challenge 100 – walking 100 miles in 100 days – completing the challenge way before time ran out and raising over £1100 for the charity.
She became the face of the Epilepsy Society’s Christmas campaign, sharing her story and raising awareness of what life is like for her and others like her who live with epilepsy.
Her next plan is that she wants to climb One World Trade Centre in New York to show people that being epileptic doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your goals.
Lewis Rennie, nominated by The Rotary Club of Larne
When Lewis’ younger brother Callum sadly passed away from cancer, Lewis knew at just 6 years old that he wanted to help anyone else struggling with cancer.
He decided he was going to walk 100 miles during his summer holiday to raise money for the Big C Foundation NI, the foundation set up by his Dad in memory of Callum.
Lewis’ 100-mile challenge saw him cross forests, beaches and mountains and he was well-supported by a variety of different organisations.
At the end of the challenge, with his original target being to raise £250, £16,240 was presented to the Big C Foundation that has since been spent on wheelchairs, play therapy equipment and trips to Lapland for children with cancer.
Maisie Askew, nominated by Bexhill Rotary Club
At Christmas 2020, Maisie experienced pain which was considered a ‘trapped nerve’ yet, by the end of January 2021, it had become an unexplained weakness all down her left side of her body.
Maisie was eventually diagnosed with Osteoblastoma (a benign bone tumour) but when the tumour came back after treatment, doctors said Maisie had a tumour they had NEVER seen the DNA of before.
They decided to treat it as Osteosarcoma (aggressive primary bone cancer) as most of the markers were the same.
Over the last two and a half years, 12-year-old Maisie has spent several months in hospital while enduring 8 months of chemotherapy and extensive surgery including one operation that lasted over 2 days.
While she was undergoing chemotherapy, she started her fundraising business ‘Beads Together’, selling self-made bracelets and raising over £2500 for the Children with Cancer Fund.
Maisie has also produced her first podcast episode for ‘oncology teens club’ to support others with similar experiences.