Rebekah (17) began her YA journey only at the age of 14. Here she is, 3 years later, talking about her experiences.
How did you first get involved with the Young Ambassadors programme?
I was only in S3 when I first got involved with the Young Ambassadors programme. I originally picked a Graphic Communication course as one of my subjects at school, but when that got cancelled, I was a bit unsure of what I wanted to do - I didn’t want to do a language or anything like that. One of my teachers suggested a sport qualification course and since I enjoyed PE I thought, why not! While on the course my PE teacher invited me to attend the YA conference in Aberdeen. I had no idea of what it was about, but I was told it was about developing leadership skills. The conference was brilliant, and I couldn’t wait to go back to the school and implement all my ideas and get started on this journey.
Since my year as a YA, I’ve done a lot of volunteering. I work part-time with Active Schools delivering coaching sessions to primary schools. I got involved of the back of organising an Active Girls’ Day 3 years ago and I’ve been working with them ever since. Through Active Schools I’ve organised a variety of city-wide events and conferences, as well as connected with many schools and clubs in the area. My work was acknowledged by my peers as they nominated me for the Volunteer of the Year 2018 award at Aberdeen Sports Awards - which I later won.
How did your YA experience influence your skills development?
Before the programme I was really shy and would never volunteer to go anywhere alone. Young Ambassadors has really helped to grow my confidence and I’m now more than happy to go for any opportunity that comes my way.
In the beginning I spent a lot of time with my mentor, where we would sit down together, make an action plan, discuss ideas and debate what would work best in our school. After three months my mentor went on a maternity leave and the YA mentoring duties got passed onto another person in our PE department who wasn’t as experienced on the programme. This was a real catalyst for me and I think I learned a lot from this experience. My communication skills grew, and I built up the confidence I needed to go up to strangers and ask for help. These are probably things I wouldn’t have learned so quick if my mentor was there.
I then got to be part of the YA Conference Delivery team which was a great experience. This helped me find new ways to communicate and connect with new people as well as improve my presentation skills. It also built up my skills around thinking on my feet and being creative. I would highly recommend any of you to apply to be part of the Conference Delivery team if the opportunity comes.
Your YA Legacy
I organised a ‘handover’ type meeting with the new YAs as I feel it’s really important to get everyone on the same page and make sure that there’s progress, rather than each new group starting from scratch.
I didn’t know much about the programme before going to the conference, so I made sure that there is more awareness of this within the school for future YAs. I created a YA noticeboard in the PE department as well as create regular content for the school newsletter. I think it’s important to keep people informed, so that they know there’s different options to get involved in sports.
What about your future?
I am hoping to study sport development at North East Scotland College (NESCOL) next year. I finished my application for the course recently and I actually ran over the word limit talking about my YA experiences! I hope all the things I have learned and the opportunities I took while being a YA will help me to get in.
After college and university, I’m hoping to work within Active Schools or sport development.
Any advice for new YAs?
Just go out there and do your thing! There’s an opportunity around every corner.
Erin Gillen is a former YA, member of the Young People's Sport Panel and a model student at Turnbull High School.
How did you first get involved with the Young Ambassador programme?
I wasn’t the sportiest person or an amazing athlete. My focus at school was Music. I was suddenly asked to take on this role and go to a conference – it felt a little daunting at first. It turned out to be just the thing I needed. Being a YA motivated me do other things for my school, like starting an athletics club and becoming a Head Girl. I got involved in many things – lunch time fitness club, athletics, various leadership and development courses and sport council. I was also quite involved in my school’s journey to achieving a School Sport Award.
How did it influence your skills development?
I come across as a very confident person but that wasn’t always the case. Before Young Ambassadors I was rather shy, and a bit closed off. Since getting involved I became more independent as a person and my confidence grew.
One of the major things I learned was to listen to other people and accept that they might have some great ideas. I became more organised, learned how to follow a schedule and make everything work seamlessly together. Through running a lot of events improved on my time keeping and organisational skills and made me confident asking for help.
I had a great relationship with my fellow YA which helped a lot along the way. We’re very similar and we both wanted to do good things for our school.
Your YA Legacy in Turnbull High School
I believe that ever since we got involved in the YA programme, people in my school became aware of it and all the good things that happened because of it. People have seen us putting on great events and that sparked interest and raised awareness. It is now much more prominent than when I first got involved in it.
YA to YPSP
I applied for Young People’s Sport Panel after completing my 2 years as a YA. The application process was very demanding, and I did not expect to go through the first 2 stages. I didn’t think my interview went very well as I was extremely stressed, so I was shocked and extremely happy when I received the phone call with good news.
Being a Young Ambassador and on a YA Conference Team helped with building up to it. My work in volunteering in Active Schools, all the leadership courses and running the links between my school, and the local clubs and community all helped with my application. Now I get to be the voice of young people in Scottish sport.
What about your future?
My role model is our Active School Coordinator. She encouraged me every step along the way and I want to follow her path. I plan to study Social Work at The University of Strathclyde as I love working with young people and I want to make a difference in their lives through sport.
For a while I wanted to do physiotherapy, but biology bored me. I’m more of a social person and I want to help people. I like a good chat and I feel like I can do more with that. I really enjoyed putting on events and being involved in all aspects of sports. I just know that’s where I want to end up.
I want to do just as much at University as I did in my school. I’ll be stepping outside my comfort zone but I’m sure it will be just another great adventure.
Any advice for those embarking on their YA journey?
I would not be where I am today without the extra effort. Go out and do all you can, meet new people, create opportunities. It can be hard to engage people at first but if you stick to it you will eventually succeed. Listen to other people’s advice, use the sources around you for your benefit.
Always keep the conversation going, email people if you can’t talk face to face. If you’re too shy, ask your teacher, mentor or fellow YA for help.
It might be scary but keep going and you’ll get there, and it will get easier. Be the driving force of change in your school.