Three young people from Bedford scoop top prizes in Yopey awards

Aaron Scholes.
Aaron Scholes.

Young people from Bedford have won first, second and third prizes at the Bedfordshire Young People of the Year awards or ‘the Yopeys’ - Oscars for young people who give to others.

Shelbee Clarke, 19, of Walcourt Road, came third for being the figurehead of a fundraising campaign while battling cancer.

Alice Lisle-Denny with Atlas MD Alan Johnson.

Alice Lisle-Denny with Atlas MD Alan Johnson.

Alice Lisle-Denny, 23, of Darlow Drive, came second for building a home for a poor Africa family, almost with her bare hands.

Aaron Scholes, 23, of Goldington Road, was the Bedfordshire Young Person for the Year for leading Bedford Sea Cadets after growing up in care.

The three were among a number of young people who received their awards at a presentation ceremony held at the University of Bedfordshire on Thursday.

Aaron, who was born in Bedford, was taken into care aged four after his father died and his mother had mental health problems. He was separated from his brother and they never lived together again. Over the next 14 years he was to have seven homes and 18 social workers.

Shelbee Clarke.

Shelbee Clarke.

Aaron said : “Each change felt like a rejection. I was a very angry and difficult child.”

Aged nine he found himself living in Felixstowe and fell in love with the ships coming and going from the docks. He said: “My dad had been in the Army and I wanted to go into the military and join the Navy.”

Aged 10 he joined the Sea Cadets and when he returned to Bedford, aged 12, he transferred to the local unit, TS Victorious.

Aaron said: “Cadets acted as my ‘rock’. They were like a big family which outside cadets I did not have. Cadets offered structure and consistency to my life.”

Aged 18 Aaron was allowed to stay on at the cadets and became an adult leader.

“I became boating officer looking after a fleet of about eight boats, even though I put a hole in one of the boats.”

Later he became training officer and then second in command of the Bedford unit which has about 40 cadets.

He said: “Becoming an adult volunteer and eventually becoming commanding officer is my way of giving back.”

Last year he became the youngest CO in the east of England and possibly the whole of the country. He gives many hours each week on top of having two jobs, one in a children’s home.

His aim is to raise enough funds to rebuild the unit’s headquarters inLongholme Way. He won £800 form Yopey including £400 for the sea cadets.

He was presented with his prize by the Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Helen Nellis, who said Aaron “should parade his successes and his past because it shows other children growing up in care that they too can succeed - just like anyone else!”

Among the sponsors of this year’s Yopeys were Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Atlas Converting Equipment of Kempston, Movianto UK of Bedford, Central Bedfordshire Council, Carlisle Managed Solutions and William Jackson Food Group. The awards ceremony was held at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton.

Alice Lisle-Denny ‘adopted’ a poor family in Tanzania. When she saw their slum home was falling down, she offered to build a new one.

She came back to England and raised £8,000 and then used the skills she had learned as a civil engineering student to go back to Africa and manage the building work.

Because there were no roads to where the family lived, all building materials had to be brought through the jungle in wheelbarrows. But that was not the only problem Alice had to contend with.

She said: “Africa is an enchanting but a frustrating place, in which women play a subordinate role to men.

“Managing a project like this in the UK would have been difficult but in Africa it was all the more difficult. At times I despaired that I would be taken seriously as a woman and be able to achieve my goal.

“In the end sheer determination and perseverance brought me through.”

The Yopey judges agreed. Alan Johnson, Managing Director of sponsor Atlas Converting, said: “All the judges were struck by Alice’s determination, tenacity, perseverance and ability to drive a project through to its conclusion. We all recognised she made a profound difference to other people¹s lives.”

Alice won £400 and is sending this to Africa to help pay for two of the family’s children to go to school.

When Shelbee Clarke was diagnosed with cancer, she got family, friends, her school and police cadets to raise money for charities.

The 19-year-old received two nominations from Bedfordshire Police Cadets - where she was drill sargeant - and Hastingbury College, where she is head girl.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Fuller, who presented Shelbee with her £100 prize, said: ³I feel many adults would have crumbled under such obstacles. But she carried on regardless.”

Shelbee, who is now in remission, sold woollen hats, knitted by supporters, to members of the YOPEY audience, which included many mayors from across Bedfordshire.

There were 12 finalists at the awards ceremony at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, including one other Bedford young person. Kirsty Kalyan, 17, of Merton Road, is working with older members of Priory Methodist Church to raise money to rebuild a children’s nursery in South Africa, destroyed in factional fighting.

Yopey founder Tony Gearing said: “I have been holding Yopeys in Bedfordshire since 2006 and I was beginning to wonder about the young people of Bedford.

“In all that time they hadn’t won a single top prize.

“This year all that has changed with Bedford taking three top prizes. Well done, Bedford!”

This year’s sponsors included: Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service, Central Bedfordshire Council, Atlas Converting Equipment of Kempston, Movianto of Bedford, William Jackson Food Group which includes Parripak in Chicksands, and Carlisle Managed Solutions.