Night of celebration for Southampton's Youth Options organisation

Daily Echo: Chairman of the Youth Options trustees Mike Gretton with award winners Darryl Saxton, Curtis Newell, Ian Stickland, Kylie Hawton, Paul Sillence, Mark Dixon and Lord Lieutenant Mary Fagan. Chairman of the Youth Options trustees Mike Gretton with award winners Darryl Saxton, Curtis Newell, Ian Stickland, Kylie Hawton, Paul Sillence, Mark Dixon and Lord Lieutenant Mary Fagan.

Supporters, staff and businesses came together to celebrate the success of an organisation dedicated to helping young people.

Youth Options' annual event was held at the Crosfield Hall in Romsey where no less than four mayors from across Hampshire joined patron Mary Fagan and CEO Mark Dixon to pay tribute to those involved with the organisation.

The event heard from some of the 500 young people who have been supported last year alone by the numerous projects run by Youth Options along with the volunteers who make them happen.

Hosted by teenagers who have been helped and who are now helping the organisation, the event saw gongs handed out to teams and individuals who have helped make a difference.

The audience also saw first hand the difference the various projects made including the impact of a trip to Auschwitz, and how the organisation supported young people with troubled upbringings.

Youngsters who had enjoyed apprenticeship opportunities or worked with the National Citizenship Service scheme shared their experience with specially invited guests.

But the night was all about recognising achievement and awards were handed out to people who had just starting on their volunteering careers after a rough start in life, to those who have been doing it for over fifty years.

The work of an outreach programme where social workers work with young people on the streets was also recognised.

Chairman of the board of trustees Mike Gretton said: “Tonight is all about what the young people, it is a celebration of their activities and the fantastic value they get from it.”

The night also saw tributes paid to the supporters of Youth Options including Dame Mary Fagan who will retire as president in the autumn. She also received an award on behalf of Youth Option after they were presented with the Investors In People Bronze award in recognition of how well they look after their staff.

Winners:

Ross Scallan Young Volunteer Awards - Curtis Newell.

As a young person in care Curtis is now sharing his experiences with other young people through a volunteering programme with primary schoolchildren.

He was given the award for how he has become an excellent role model for others.

Curtis, 16, said: “If it wasn’t for Youth Options I would just be another kid on my Xbox. It has changed my life.”

Kylie Hawton Kylie, now 18, was also in care as a youngster. Having taken part in the National Citizenship Service programme she now volunteers for it along with other projects delivered by Youth Options. She was described as “an asset to the team”.

She said: “I had no idea I was getting it and got a bit emotional. These guys mean everything to me, they have helped me so much.”

Club of the Year - The Lordshill Youth Project Set up 13 years ago by Darryl Saxton and Ian Stickland, the project now employs four youth workers to engage with young people on the streets by meeting with them where ever they are hanging out. From there they signpost them to services they think might help them from sexual health to drug and alcohol advice to education and employment opportunities for more than 300 young people a month.

Ian said: “We didn’t know we were getting it, that was a total surprise. It really belongs to the young people and youth workers who are involved in the project every day.”

Volunteer of the Year Award - Paul Sillence

Having first visited the Thornhill Youth Centre boys club in 1964, Paul Sillence has been part of the furniture since.

For fity years he has been integral to ensuring the Southampton centre has kept its place in the community that depends on it as a hub for a host of activities and community events.

Having been everything from group leader to caretaker, chairman and secretary the centre has become a way of life for 65-year-old Mr Sillence.

“I just always enjoyed taking part in things that the youth centre organised so it was just something I started getting involved in and it has just always been that way. This was a very nice surprise and a welcome one but I must thank my wife for being so understanding over the years.”

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