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Young Citizen Awards

This weekend (6th - 7th May) the Spark UK team (and parents) spent a night away in Birmingham to accept a Rotary Young Citizen Award at the Volunteer Expo.

The Young Citizen Award is a yearly award organised by Rotary GB & Ireland. It was set up in 2007 to showcase and celebrate the positive citizenship and important responsibilities assumed by many young people under the age of 25.

In February 22, Ilfracombe Rotary Club submitted a nomination for Spark UK to win a Young Citizen Award. This was completely unexpected, however, the team were thrilled with the news of the nomination (the nomination is at the end of the article). After researching the inspiring previous winners, we settled on the fact we were unlikely to win such a prestigious award.

In April, I got a call from Pam Cox (secretary at Ilfracombe Rotary Club) telling me the incredible news that we had won an award. After some frantic calls with the team, we were delighted and shocked. There were many high-pitched voices (mainly from me 🤣)

On Friday 6th May, the team began the 3hr long journey up to Birmingham with parents. We spent the early evening meeting BBC reporter and presenter Ellie Criscell, and the rest of the inspirational winners. After an hour of rehearsal on stage, we headed back for the evening to enjoy games of Table Football, Dobble and plenty of food.

On Saturday morning, we got up early and got the short tram ride over to the expo. Myself and Bridie accepted the award and were interviewed live on stage by Ellie. After the award ceremony, we were invited to a winners lunch with Rotary International President-Elect Gordon McInally. We chatted about Rotary, Mental Health and The struggles of living in North Devon (mainly the distance of a nearby McDonalds).

I am so proud of the team and how far we have come. I want to take a minute to thank some of the amazing people who have supported us over the past 2 years including Keith Burley and the Blue Elephant family, Flossy & Jim, The How People, and all our parents. But most importantly; Bridie, Tegan, Kaia, Joseph and Noah, without them we would be nowhere.

Cheers to the next 2 years 🥂🥂

The Nomination (as of Feb 2022):

Spark UK, based in North Devon, is a new mental health organisation run by young people for young people. Their aim is to raise awareness of mental health across the UK and to provide resources for schools to use. They are a team of 4 aged between 13 and 16 years and all still attend full-time education. They are Conor Warren, Founder; Bridie Downing, Head of Content; Joseph Carter, Head of Written Content and Tegan Phillips, Head of Communication.

There is enough evidence and documentation of mental health and well-being issues highlighted during the current COVID pandemic and as they are placed squarely within their school community, they are very much aware of those issues and problems they are all facing and experiencing.

They got together to “spark a conversation around mental health” as they are tired of the stigma around mental health and young people and hope to alleviate that stigma through the use of their website They wanted to create a network and community that schools can be a part of and share mental-health-related resources.

Spark UK has been using the media - BBC Spotlight, newspapers, celebrities, other groups in commonality all documented on their Facebook page - to help raise their profile and awareness of their organisation. Their group, Spark UK, has attracted national attention and persuaded actors, sports stars and celebrities such as Jonny Wilkinson, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Steve Backshall to record messages for a digital celebrity All Star Calendar - an online version of an advent calendar - in which they talk about their own mental health. Conor Warren, Founder, said in their interview with The Guardian:

“The key was that all the resources were being produced by teenagers for teenagers. We’ve come across a lot of organisations guided by adults. We don’t know of others that are run by teenagers with no board of adults telling us what we can or can’t do”.

They have been very successful in their aims and are building on their resources for schools to use. These resources are now going out to over 350 schools country-wide.

The accompanying presentation describes Spark UK in all its fullness.

Spark UK is an inspirational and amazing bunch of young people who need the recognition they so well deserve.

Pam Cox, Secretary Ilfracombe Rotary Club 2021-22

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