Top awards for caring youngsters

THE work of caring youngsters has been recognised at an emotional awards ceremony. The final of the Stevenage and Welwyn Hatfield Young People of the Year (YOPEY) awards was held at GlaxoSmithKline on Tuesday. There were tears in the eyes of many audienc

THE work of caring youngsters has been recognised at an emotional awards ceremony.

The final of the Stevenage and Welwyn Hatfield Young People of the Year (YOPEY) awards was held at GlaxoSmithKline on Tuesday.

There were tears in the eyes of many audience members as the stories of the 12 finalists were read out.

All of them are under 25 and give their free time to support or care for others.

Eight students from Marriotts School, Stevenage, were the overall winners of the event for their peer mentoring group.

Chloe Winters, George Matthews, Matt Hayes, Ian Palmer, Ryan Rackley, Ami Daniel, Samantha Folly and Rachel Fender - all 14 and 15-year-olds - help support fellow students with problems.

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George told The Comet: "We can help them with anything. Everything we talk to them about is confidential but if it's really serious we have to tell the teacher.

"I like helping out with younger children and making sure they're all right and treating them the way I'd like to be treated."

George said he was "over the moon" at winning the award.

Lisa Powell, a teaching assistant at the school who helps coordinate the mentoring scheme, said: "What we're most proud of is that they're dedicated and prepared to take on anything really.

"They're learning all the time through their own experiences."

The students received £500 to share between them and £500 for the school.

The junior winner of the event was 13-year-old Rachel Fry, of Sefton Road, Stevenage.

Rachel helps to care for her 15-year-old sister Jessica, who is severely disabled.

She makes Jessica's lunch, baths her, carries her where she needs to go and is learning to make up her medicine.

Jessica does not like sleeping in the specially-built room on the ground floor of their house so Rachel lets her share her room.

The judges of the awards said Rachel "shows real dedication, support and love and is a role model for all young people".

Rachel won £250 for herself and £250 for Carers In Hertfordshire.

Jevan Graham, 13, from MacKenzie Square, Stevenage, was named as a runner up for helping care for his older brother, Merrick, who has Aspergers, learning difficulties and mild autism.

Penny Calver, 22, from Oakfields Avenue, Knebworth, was also named a runner-up for her work in local guiding and on a community project in India.

Both runners-up were given £125, with another £125 going to their supporting organisations.

YOPEY founder Tony Gearing told the finalists: "All of you are winners. You are all positive role models who are doing their bit to improve the image of young people today."

The winners will go forward to a county wide final, to be held later this year.

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