Stephanie from Hitchin has a way to beat bullies

A TEENAGER who helps at a youth project and also advises victims of bullying is a contender for GlaxoSmithKline Young People of the Year (YOPEY) in Hertfordshire. Fifteen-year-old Stephanie Walker, of Sanfoine Close, Hitchin, is now in the running for a t

A TEENAGER who helps at a youth project and also advises victims of bullying is a contender for GlaxoSmithKline Young People of the Year (YOPEY) in Hertfordshire.

Fifteen-year-old Stephanie Walker, of Sanfoine Close, Hitchin, is now in the running for a top prize of �1,000 from a pot of �2,600 put up by sponsors.

She was nominated by Lorraine Hughes, deputy head of The Highfield School in Letchworth GC who called her kind-hearted and caring.

She said that Stephanie was one of a steering group of seven pupils who worked with a youth worker from Groundwork and herself to set up a project in a building at Purwell Primary School, Hitchin.

The project, which currently caters for 20 people aged 11-17, has youth club-type activities, including sports, games, and arts and crafts.

"It provides a safe place in an area with few facilities for young people," said Lorraine.

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It is also somewhere young people can discuss a whole range of subjects with adults.

Stephanie goes along and helps generally, setting out equipment, and encouraging others to attend. She has also had an input into a bid for �1,000 for the project.

"Stephanie turns up every week. She is very enthusiastic," said Lorraine.

"She and others have set up a website and made posters to publicise the group."

Lorraine said that Stephanie had also been involved in "bully buddies", a pupil-led drop-in surgery at Highfield for those who have been bullied or fear bullying so that they can discuss problems in a safe manner. Stephanie gives up free time at school to take part in this.

She is also a member of the student council and helped organise a talent competition which raised more than �500 to be put towards a school prom night.

All this has meant that she has completed more than 50 hours of volunteering under the V-involved scheme.

"Stephanie is very unassuming and modest about what she does and does not seek any recognition," said Lorraine. "She just believes she is doing the right thing to help others. She is very kind-hearted and caring and puts others before herself."

Stephanie has been going to the youth project�s two-hour sessions since the beginning. "The school asked for volunteers from the pupils and because I live in the area I thought it would be a good idea to go along and help," she said.

"It's great fun. I try to persuade friends to go along as well."

She has been a member of the anti-bullying scheme for four years and has helped many youngsters. "I was bullied at primary school by name-calling and I thought I did not want others to go through that which is why I wanted to be a bully buddy.

"Once you have helped somebody it�s good to see them happy and relieved. You know you have made a difference to their life."

Stephanie hopes to be a primary school teacher.

* Do you know any inspirational young person or group of young people who go that extra mile? Hertfordshire YOPEY is open to young people aged from 10-25, who should live, work or study in the county. Log on to www.yopey.org or send an SAE for an entry form to YOPEY, PO Box 103, Ware, Herts SG9 0XD. Young people can nominate themselves.