20-year-old sports coach and mentor Natasha Kerr takes the title at the National Youth Worker of the Year Awards 2016
A 20-year-old volunteer from East Ayrshire who gave up over 800 hours of her time last year to mentor more than 200 young athletes has been named Scotland’s Youth Worker of the Year.
Natasha Kerr, an HND sport student at Ayrshire College, volunteers with Kilmarnock Harriers, East Ayrshire Vibrant Communities and her village’s youth club in Catrine.
She was also named Volunteer of the Year at the National Youth Worker of the Year Awards, hosted by YouthLink Scotland.
Picking up the prestigious national awards, Natasha spoke of her passion for mentoring local youngsters: “Getting the experience of coaching different children and learning new skills makes it so worthwhile,” she said.
“I’m coaching hockey, basketball, badminton and athletics right now and it’s incredible to see so many talented youngsters.”
Our overall winner, Natasha Kerr is a great example of the dedication shown by tens of thousands of volunteers every week
John McTaggart, curriculum manager for sport and fitness at Ayrshire College, who nominated her, added: “Natasha is an inspirational student who freely gives up her time and talents for the benefit of others. She delivers over 800 hours of community development in East Ayrshire each year and inspires over 200 young people each week through sport and recreation within her community.”
This year’s awards ceremony and dinner, held in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow, saw awards handed out in 10 categories with a total of 31 finalists.
Jim Sweeney, chief executive of YouthLink Scotland, hailed all the finalists and paid particular praise to Natasha.
He said: “Every year my respect increases for the dedication shown by youth work volunteers and staff, who despite tough economic times and reducing budgets keep their focus on enabling young people to change their lives for the better.
“Our overall winner, Natasha Kerr is a great example of the dedication shown by tens of thousands of volunteers every week.
“She demonstrates how youth work and sport can inspire young people to participate and achieve.”
Other winners on the night included Megan Scott from Callander Youth Project Trust, who was named full-time youth worker of the year for her work helping youngsters to achieve the best results they can get at school.
Campaigner Barry Jordan, from Dundee, was named part-time youth worker of the year for his work in fighting for equality on behalf of LGBT young people in Dundee, Fife and Perth.
Barnardo’s Scotland’s Outside-In Project, was awarded Innovative Team of the Year, for its delivery of youth work and learning opportunities to young men at Her Majesty’s Young Offender Institution Polmont.
Climate Change Champion of the Year went to David Hodson from Tweedale Youth Action for The Food Punks project combining Peebles' CAN garden project with cooking classes, with youngsters learning about food from field to plate.
Dunure Youth Club won the Arts and Creativity Award for its unusual heritage sculptures, The Dunure Seahorses. The project saw youngsters team up with a local artist to create two giant seahorse sculptures in their community.
Elspeth Husband of Girlguiding Scotland and Sandy Davidson, a community learning assistant, at Perth & Kinross Council, were named joint Young Person’s Champion.
Elaine Baxter, a community development worker at Greenwood Academy in Irvine, and Colin Lemmon from Northfield Academy in Aberdeen won a joint award for supporting youngsters who are struggling to achieve at school.
Bill Reside, a youth development worker at East Dunbartonshire Council, was named Worker of the Year for his role at St Ninian’s High School and Mark Molloy, of Dumfries and Galloway Council, was named Youth Work Manager of the Year.
The event was hosted by broadcaster and Forth One DJ, Arlene Stuart and the guest speaker was Scotland’s minister for children and young people, Aileen Campbell MSP.
She confirmed the Scottish Government is looking to hosting a youth summit to bring people such as teachers and youth workers together to discuss issues such as the Curriculum for Excellence.
She added: “I’m delighted to have been invited to join so many inspiring individuals at the awards – to celebrate and promote the immense value of Scotland’s youth work sector to our young people and our wider communities.
“Youth work not only builds the self-esteem and confidence of young people for future opportunities, it also helps to prepare them for the world of work – providing opportunities for awards and life experiences they may not achieve otherwise.”