news 30 November 2023

Trailblazing young people and volunteers across the UK are recognised at first This is Youth celebration

A teenage computer programmer who has transformed science lessons for fellow blind students and a youth worker who has gone above and beyond to ensure young patients at Leeds General Infirmary can do their DofE are among inspirational young people and volunteers announced today as the recipients of the charity’s first ever This is Youth Celebration.

This is Youth 2023 recognises and celebrates the amazing stories behind The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. It showcases young people and the adults who support them doing what they do best: rising above today’s challenges and making their mark on the world, their way. Each DofE journey is unique – and every person will be making a difference.

The DofE’s Chair of Trustees, Tanni, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, DL and CEO Ruth Marvel presented accolades to winners at a celebration at London’s Postal Museum last night – selected for the incredible impact they have made through their DofE journey.

The charity received hundreds of This is Youth nominations from across the UK in eight categories, with the final winners chosen by panels including DofE Youth Ambassadors and celebrity supporters. Judges also paid tribute to 12 other entrants for their extraordinary achievements.

Ruth Marvel, CEO of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, said: “Our first ever This is Youth winners – and the brilliant nominations we received from every corner of the UK – totally bowled us over. Every one of them has made an incredible impact on their community, and we are so proud of what they have achieved through their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

“The possibilities with DofE are endless – allowing young people to follow their passions, learn new skills, increase in confidence and make a difference – and these amazing young people and volunteers have truly shown that.”

The winners are:

Innovator of the Year, kindly supported by The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC): Theo Holroyd, 16, from Cambridge, who is blind, has created a game-changing computer programme called ‘Talking Balance’ for his DofE Volunteering section. It transforms traditional scientific scales into accessible equipment for blind students, enabling him to fully participate in his GCSE science lessons for the first time. Judged by award-winning presenter Jay Blades MBE and Youth Ambassador Thomas.

Life-Changer of the Year, kindly supported by Pears Foundation: Faye Bishop, 29, a Paediatric & Young Adult Diabetes Youth Worker and DofE Leader from Leeds, who has worked tirelessly to ensure that children with complex needs receiving treatment at Leeds General Infirmary do not miss out on doing their DofE. Judged by journalist and writer Louise Minchin and Youth Ambassador Karolina.

Torchbearer of the Year: Norrie Brown, 65, a DofE Leader from North Ayrshire, who through his 20 years of volunteering with the charity, has helped positively engage hard to reach students, help young people secure university placements and jobs, and reduce anti-social behaviour in his local area. Judged by actress Nina Wadia OBE and Youth Ambassador Ved.

Trailblazer of the Year, kindly supported by The Gosling Foundation: Hannah Chowdhry, 19, from Ilford, who volunteered at a foodbank supporting those experiencing homelessness for her DofE and helped 22 people find temporary housing. Judged by DofE Chair of Trustees and Paralympian, Tanni, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, DL and Youth Ambassador Gracie.

Planet Protector of the Year: Lila Nunn, 17, from Cardiff, who has championed eco-solutions in her community for her DofE Volunteering section – including planting trees, replacing a bottle vendor at her school with a refillable water bottle station, and introducing a vegetarian day in the canteen. Judged by gardening guru and TV favourite Alan Titchmarsh MBE DL and Youth Ambassador Lauren.

All-Stars of the Year: Kilsyth DofE Group – Aadam, Abbie, Anthony, Sarah, Elidh, Grace, Gregor, Jack, Lana, Sophia, aged 15-16 from Glasgow, who impressed judges by planning and hosting an event celebrating the achievements of 350 DofE participants across North Lanarkshire, inspiring others to start their Award. Judged by special forces veteran and SAS Who Dares Wins star Jason Fox and Youth Ambassador Poppy.

Change Maker of the Year, kindly supported by British Airways: Sharandeep Sahota, 20, from Coventry, a young carer who has organised social events for other young carers and delivered meals to people experiencing homelessness for her DofE Volunteering section. She also delivered care packages to older people and children in hospital. Judged by adventure athlete and mental health campaigner Sally Orange MBE and Youth Ambassador Olivia.

Boundary Breaker of the Year, kindly supported by Gordon and Hilary Phillips: A young person*, 14, from Gateshead, who has overcome extremely difficult circumstances, including growing up in care and leaving mainstream school, to achieve his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. This included overcoming triggering experiences related to spending the night away from home to complete his expedition. The judges were impressed with the resilience and determination this young person showed in the face of personal challenges, and the growth that he has experienced as a result. Judged by world record-breaking wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft OBE DL and Youth Ambassador Olivia.

Innovator of the Year winner Theo said: “I was unable to fully take part in my GCSE science lessons because traditional scientific scales aren’t accessible for blind students. I decided to do something about it with help from my mentor Ben, who is also blind. I contacted the leading school for the blind in the UK, who address this problem in-house with technology from the 1980s that’s not available for classrooms, so I created Talking Balance as part of my Silver DofE Volunteering section.

“It felt amazing to win Innovator of the Year. I think Talking Balance will make a difference for blind people around the world. It was an incredible feeling to use it for the first time and be able to weigh things in science like everybody else. I realised that I’d overcome a roadblock and done something that nobody else has or even thought to do.”

Jay Blades MBE, who judged the Innovator of the Year category said: “What Theo has done with Talking Balance is truly revolutionary. Now, blind students all over the world will be able to fully participate in science experiments simply by purchasing two wires and downloading Theo’s computer programme. This invention simply didn’t exist before, and it has implications for future scientists too, drastically improving accessibility. The innovation and determination that Theo has shown to overcome the obstacles he faced as a blind student – not just for himself, but for others – is extraordinary.”

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