Kaitlyn from Rhondda Cynon Taff’s Youth Engagement and Participation Service has blogged for us about the most valuable lessons she has learned from being involved in many community and youth projects ahead of our ‘Young People Influencing Decisions About What Matters to Them’ event.
At least once I can guarantee anyone reading this has sat in a classroom and voted for their year group school council representative. From year 3 to my current position in sixth form, voting days were my time to shine! I’m Kaitlyn and in September of last year I became a proud member of my school’s Leadership Team, which in the same December lead me to my first RCT County Youth Forum meeting. Over the last year, I have worked A LOT with RCT’s Youth Engagement and Participation Service (Yeps) and have developed and accessed an impeccable amount of skills and opportunities that have allowed me to be in the position I am now, or should I say positions (there are multiple) – a Yeps volunteer, a Member of Youth Parliament, the Secretary of the CYF (County Youth forum) and Youth Inspector. Really I quite often lose track of all the titles I’ve been given, but it’s not about those. It’s about what I have learnt along the way…
One of, if not the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from being involved in many community and youth projects is the importance of social interaction. I have met a multitude of people who have taught me a number of things and each has impacted the decisions I’ve made moving forward since. My favourite example of this is my friends Kelly and Zoey. I met this loving pair through my admiration of theatre and writing. Through Yeps’ young person’s website WICID.tv I was asked to attend a press night for the ballet in Cardiff, Wales Millenium Centre and review the show. There I met Kelly and Zoey who encouraged me to start my own blog as it was something I had considered, but, did not have the confidence to do. After that I set up my own theatre blog which I love writing for alongside WICID, adoring every musical, play or performance I have seen since. It has introduced me to so many other female, Welsh bloggers who are constantly giving me advice, tips and 100% support.
Despite what I do outside of Yeps, I will always remember where I began my Youth aspirations. Mental Health was one of my main priorities going into my first Youth Forum as I knew it was one of the sub-committees I wanted to be a part of. I started out being trained up to be a Youth Mental Health first aider as part of a 6 week course (which works wonders on the cv) and most recently as part of a German exchange I was then able to run own Mental Health workshop. It’s extremely beneficial and refreshing for these activities to be organised by young people themselves as it brings them a sense of purpose and certainty that their voices are being heard. It also brings a whole new perspective having a person your age talking with you, on the same level, rather than at you with an egotistic sense of authority due to the number of years they’ve lived for! You can be ‘mature’ at 16, right?
The idea of maturity at 16 was an argument that was presented in front of myself and a further 300 hundred MYP’s (member of youth parliament) at the 2018 House of Commons annual debate when discussing the right to vote at 16. In November last year, Yeps, BYC and Youth Cymru took me to London! If I thought the youth voice was being heard in my local Youth Forum, it was definitely being heard on a much larger scale here and I was honored to be one of two from RCT to attend. We debated a number of topics voted for by over 1 million young people across the UK and came to a final conclusion on our top two issues for our 2019 campaigns. Those being Votes at 16 and tackling knife crime.
Working with young people with different opinions, backgrounds and goals as a volunteer with Yeps has opened my eyes to so much more beyond, what my Dad calls my ‘little Kaitlyn bubble’. The skills I have developed, socially and mentally has shown me how capable I and any other young person can be to make change. The Youth Engagement and Participation service has provided me with numerous trainings – including public speaking – which have set me up for the real world. Never will I have to worry about entering an interview with no previous work experience or voluntary hours because I have had enough to last me a lifetime in just one year thanks to the support of Yeps.
I am blessed to have worked with the kindest and most caring Youth Workers who have encouraged me to push myself past my own mindset and achieve more than I thought possible.