Spotlight turns on inspiring North Herts teenagers as ‘young people’s Oscars’ are handed out

Hertfordshire finalists in the 2015 Yopey awards for outstanding young people

Hertfordshire finalists in the 2015 Yopey awards for outstanding young people - Credit: Archant

Five North Herts teenagers have been singled out for praise by an awards scheme which recognises role models for young people and rewards them for their efforts.

Lucy Merrell, Meghan Porter, Lauren Marshall all act as mentors at Knights Templar School in Baldock

Lucy Merrell, Meghan Porter, Lauren Marshall all act as mentors at Knights Templar School in Baldock and were runners-up in the 2015 Yopey awards for Hertfordshire - Credit: Archant

Lucy Merrell, Meghan Porter, Lauren Marshall, Abby Gee and Tom Ellwood were all named as runners-up in the Mitsubishi Electric Young People of the Year awards, held at the exclusive Moor Park mansion.

A distinguished audience, which included the Queen’s representatives in Hertfordshire and mayors and council chairmen from across the county, heard about their achievements.

Lucy, Meghan and Lauren are all involved in a mentoring scheme introduced at Baldock’s Knights Templar School.

Older pupils help younger ones, particularly those with educational issues and behavioural difficulties. Many sixth-formers take part but the trio were singled out as “stand-out role models in an excellent year”.

YOPEY logo

YOPEY logo - Credit: Archant

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Head girl Lucy, 17, gives academic guidance to underachieving and disaffected pupils. She has helped to create revision booklets and timetables for pupils, as well as regularly meeting with them to provide support.

Meghan, 18, mentors girls aged 11 to 14 who are affected by low self-esteem. Lauren, 17, helps girls struggling with emotional and behavioural difficulties and general academic underachievement. She led targeted revision sessions for 14-year-olds, many of whom have a range of learning difficulties. With a sixth-form friend, she also created a booklet of ‘helpful hints and tips for revision’ for 12-year-old pupils.

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Many of the mentors are also involved in projects outside school. Lucy is an instructor at a dance school and has provided Knights Templar with dancing resources that the school’s head of PE described as “the highest standard I have seen in over 20 years of teaching”. Meghan volunteers regularly at a club for autistic children and has learned sign language.

When Abby Gee’s good friend and fellow swimmer Will Rodger was diagnosed with a brain tumour she decided to do something positive.

Both Abby, 18, who was nominated by Hitchin Girls’ School, and Will - who was at Hitchin Boys’ School – were high-performance swimmers with Team Luton.

Abby encouraged about 100 swimmers to take part in a marathon event which raised more than £5,000 for charity.

Will’s tumour was not cancerous, but had a serious effect on his health. Although he has made a good recovery and gone on to university, he is still battling some of the effects.

And Tom changed from being a “bad boy” to a responsible leader through his time with Hitchin army cadets.

At one stage it was touch and go whether the cadets would keep him on, but Tom excelled at first aid – the unit is linked to the Royal Army Medical Corps – and realised he could make a positive contribution by teaching it to others.

The 18-year-old is now on a public services course at North Herts College and hopes to join the RAMC in due course

The judging panel, which included North Herts District Council vice chairman Councillor John Booth and last year’s YOPEY winner from Stevenage, Sam Cayton, was led by deputy lord lieutenant of Hertfordshire Robert Voss who was was “absolutely blown away and humbled” by the finalists.

He said all of them had done such “wonderful, selfless, generous and heart-warming things” and were outstanding role models for other young people to copy.

As well as Mitsubishi Electric, this year’s Herts YOPEY was sponsored by Smith-Milne & Co accountants of Rickmansworth, Orange Amplification of Borehamwood, Johnson Matthey of Royston, and Runwood Homes with several care homes in Hertfordshire. This YOPEY is also sponsored by two housing associations, B3Living of Broxbourne and East Herts, and North Hertfordshire Homes.

It was the second year Moor Park Golf Club had hosted the YOPEYs. Chief executive David Cook said: “We are very impressed with the work that YOPEY does with young people. By recognising the young unsung heroes, YOPEY is closing the gap between generations.”

Afterwards the Knights Templar girls said they would donate their £100 prize money to a mentoring charity.

Abby plans to use her prize money to finance a charity sky dive, and Tom said he would spend his on the Army cadets.

The organisers are already already looking for nominees for next year’s event. To find out more visit

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