Projects have a positive impact, says Martin Davidson
Earlier this year, 166 young people from 45 schools across central Scotland received the Mark Scott Leadership for Life Award from Roseanna Cunningham, Scottish government minister for community safety, and David Smith MBE, Paralympic 2012 gold medal winner.
This award programme started in 1997 following the death of Mark Scott, a 16-year-old Glasgow schoolboy murdered in an unprovoked sectarian attack the previous year. The Mark Scott Foundation and the Outward Bound Trust developed the ten-month-long programme with clear aims and objectives of breaking down young people’s prejudices about religion and race and to work effectively together.
In 2012, Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, presented young people with their awards at a ceremony in which he also announced details of a £600,000 three-year grant from the Scottish Government for the Mark Scott Leadership for Life Award. Mr Salmond commented at that time: “What makes these awards especially valuable is that they are focused on building communities as well as on empowering individuals. The awards encourage greater integration and cohesion within Scottish society by bringing people from disparate backgrounds together.”
The three-year grant received was part of a five-year plan to enable 1,000 young people to participate in the award. In addition to Scottish Government funding, the Outward Bound Trust heavily relies on monies received from individuals, businesses, trusts and foundations to keep the Leadership for Life Award going. Now entering into its 16th year, a total of 2,118 young people will have participated in the award since its inauguration.
The programme begins with sixth-year pupils from partner schools across central Scotland attending a presentation given by Outward Bound staff. Supported and encouraged by the Award’s School Champions, they then apply to participate.
Successful applicants from three or four schools in the same area are put into clusters of 12 to 14 to work in project teams. The teams complete a one-week residential course at one of the Outward Bound Trust’s residential centres at Loch Eil in Scotland or Howtown in the Lake District.
Once home, each project team continues to meet with its Outward Bound instructor over the next six months to plan and deliver projects which will have a practical and positive impact within their neighbourhoods.
David Syme, now an associate at one of Scotland’s leading law firms, achieved his award in 2001 while attending Paisley Grammar School. Commenting on the programme, he said: “Our team built up a great bond over the initial Outward Bound course, which helped during our year-long project. I was really proud when we completed the community project. It was great to have our hard work appreciated by the play group we were helping and then to receive the award at Glasgow City Chambers.”
Highly valued by employers and universities
A wide variety of projects are created, all of which reach into the heart of the communities in which the young participants live. For example, pupils from James Gillespie’s High School and St Thomas of Aquin’s High School in Edinburgh joined forces to enlist additional volunteers from Sacred Heart Church, the local mosque and the Unitarian Church, to provide three soup kitchen days for the city’s homeless during January and February this year.
Clydebank High School has been involved in the programme since its inception. Mark Hunter, School Champion, believes the award – achieved over the past 16 years by 70 of the school’s S6 students – is highly valued by employers, universities and the local community.
The trust’s evaluation of the Leadership for Life programme in its most recent Social Impact Report found that three key qualities were developed by participants: their capacity for building relationships, a solid foundation of personal and emotional skills and a lasting enthusiasm for challenge and achievement.
The trust’s vision is now to extend and expand the number of young people and schools getting involved in the programme throughout Scotland. Participation enables young people to make a positive impact within their community. In addition, the programme breaks down prejudices and highlights and celebrates the value of volunteering and doing something for others.
• Martin Davidson is Scottish Director of the Outward Bound Trust