Cadet who helped crash victim and role model teenager with autism are nominated for Yopey

Alex Smith from Wilstead who has been nominated for Yopey.
Alex Smith from Wilstead who has been nominated for Yopey.

A senior army cadet and a teenager with autism helping others have been nominated for the Yopey awards.

Alexander Smith, from Wilstead, helped out at the scene of a road crash and has also won praise for the way that he helps pupils at his school, Samuel Whitbread Academy in Shefford.

Tegan Hues, from Keysoe, nominataed for Yopey.

Tegan Hues, from Keysoe, nominataed for Yopey.

Alex, 18, of Cotton End Road, was nominated for the young people’s awards by Lee Huckle, assistant head of the sixth form at the academy, for the way that he helps others.

There is £2,000 to be won by young people and shared with good causes.

Alex was a passenger in a car being driven by his mum when they came across a collision between two cars on the A600 at Wilstead junction. The accident had happened moments earlier and, with another person, Alex began directing traffic until police arrived and took over.

Alex then held one of the drivers who was out of his car while ambulance personnel did an assessment of the other driver. Under the direction of ambulance crew he then helped the other driver on to a stretcher and into an ambulance.

Mr Huckle said that over the last 18 months Alex had done a lot of one-to-one sessions helping three pupils with Asperger’s Syndrome or autism. He had also helped another pupil who was suffering stress and anxiety.

Lee said: “Alex will go out of his way to help anybody who is struggling or needs support. He puts them before himself.”

At school, Alex is in charge of the technical side of drama and media, working closely with staff on productions.

Lee added: “We rely on Alex. We give him an outline and he does it with the various equipment and oversees a team of pupils and staff. We don’t know how we will manage all this side when he leaves in July.”

Alex does a similar role for his local drama group, The Wilstead Players. He also used his first-aid skills to give some basic sessions to year nine pupils.

Away from school, Alex really stands out in the Chicksands detachment of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Army Cadet Force, where he has reached the rank of company sergeant major after five years.

“A lot of my role is to mentor other cadets,” he said. “I have done everything in the training syllabus and I’m passing the knowledge and skills that I have gained to the younger cadets.”

At large camps Alex is not just looking after the youngsters from Chicksands but up to 200 cadets from the two counties.

Having successfully gone through a course Alex is now a Master Cadet, but he has achieved another honour – that of being Bedfordshire Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet, one of five cadets from different services that accompany Helen Nellis, the Queen’s representative in the county, on civic occasions.

Since appointed for this year he has been to civic services and was on duty when the Duke of Kent opened a primary school in Luton in January before another engagement at Luton Airport.

Alex loves his volunteering with the cadets. “It’s changed me. I’m more focused and my self-confidence has gone through the roof,” he said.

“I thoroughly enjoy it and would recommend it to everyone for activities and for the great atmosphere.”

He wants to join the Territorial Army Reserves after finishing the cadets and later join the regulars in the Intelligence Corps.

Major Andy Moynihan, officer commanding 4 Company, Beds and Herts ACF, said: “Alex is a reliable, outstanding and inspirational young person.

“He sets a good example to younger cadets in how to behave and inspire them to achieve all that he has achieved. He is a role model in spadesful.”

Alex has not only picked up first-aid through the cadets but though his parents – dad David is a nurse practitioner and mum Clare is an ambulance technician and care quality commission manager for a company which provides private services at Imperial College Hospital, London. Alex has a Saturday and holiday job working as an ambulance crew member

Eleven years ago, when Alex was only eight, he first showed his mettle when he helped a boy with a deep head wound.

Alex was in the pool of a cruise ship coming back from the Caribbean. A boy of about six banged his head on the side of the pool as a result of rough seas. “This then caused a serious head injury and I helped to get him out of the pool and alert adults nearby who then took care of him.”

YOPEY founder Tony Gearing said: “Alex is a great role model who certainly goes that extra mile to help others, whether it be in school, the Army cadets, or even just his local community.”

Teenager Tegan Hues has also bee nominated for Yopey.

He had been diagnosed with special needs but it was not until he was seven that he was identified as being on the autistic spectrum. When he was placed in a special needs school his behaviour changed for the better and now – at St John’s Special School & College in Bedford – has become a positive role model for others, helping them cope with their own challenges.

Tegan, 14, of Weybridge, Keysoe, is in a competition that hails the ‘giving to others’ of Bedfordshire’s younger generation.

Tegan was nominated by Joanne Taylor, a teacher at St John’s in Bedford Road in the town, who said he had made a significant impact on those around him.

She said: “Before Tegan joined us he thought he was a naughty boy who couldn’t do anything right, he could be aggressive towards people and was disinterested in anything to do with school.

“Since joining St John’s he has really calmed down and learned to self-manage his behaviour. Since Tegan has been part of S5, a class of seven autistic boys, he has opened up the world of the others, pupils that before he came along were quite insular and didn’t know how to socialise with each other.”

Tegan has the ability to change his social skills for each child and can really get down to the level of the pupil he is playing with, allowing a gateway for them to explore the idea of friendship and sharing by his being a positive role-model.”

Joanne said Tegan plays rugby with Bedford Blues and passes on his expertise in school PE lessons, encouraging others to give things a try.

“I have only known Tegan six months but I know from his previous teacher that he has made such a positive impact. If he hadn’t come to St John’s the other pupils might still not know what it is like to have friendship and for that we are extremely grateful to him,” she said.

Tegan’s mum Kyrsteen calls autism “the hidden illness”. Tegan was diagnosed at three as having special needs, he couldn’t talk properly and went to a mainstream nursery and was classed as the naughty one. He was a 10lb baby and much bigger than the other children.

When he was a bit older he had a stammer, was behind the others, he started having fits and he began hurting himself though he couldn’t feel pain. He had complex issues. Eventually a consultant said Tegan’s autism had always been there but the other issues masked each other.

When Tegan was admitted to a special school “he was a different boy”, said Kyrsteen. “At mainstream school he virtually lived outside the head teacher’s office.”

The family then moved to Bedford and Tegan again went to a mainstream school where his problems re-surfaced and then he was given a place at St John’s.

“The day he started there he was back to being a calm lovely boy. It is a two-way street at St John’s with the staff helping Tegan and him responding. He seems to be in tune with the others in the class and that has helped all their communication skills.

“He brings out the best in the others and knows when they are upset and having a meltdown and he lets the staff know. If you had seen him at five or six you wouldn’t think he could cope with anything but now he can cope – though not all the time. He is a different boy and out in the town Tegan will say ‘look there’s so and so from school’ and will wave at them. Before he didn’t have that kind of understanding.”

Kyrsteen says Tegan loves his rugby and will go into Bedford Blues’ under-15s in September.

She said Tegan is pleased and proud to have been nominated for a YOPEY.

YOPEY was founded by former national newspaper journalist Tony Gearing, who said: “There are many young people in Bedfordshire doing wonderful things for others. It’s just that they live in the shadow of a well-publicised anti-social minority.

“We need to give young people the respect they deserve and set up the best as positive role models for others to copy rather than focusing on the small number who appear in the press for negative reasons.”

About this entry, Tony said: “Tegan’s complex needs had him labelled as just ‘a naughty boy’. Now he has been correctly diagnosed and able to thrive in a special school environment he is giving back to others.”

As well as Atlas Converting Equipment, which manufactures wrapping equipment for various industries, this year’s Beds YOPEY is sponsored by Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service, Central Bedfordshire Council, and recruitment company Guidant Group.

The awards ceremony will be held at Cranfield University this autumn.

The YOPEY charity has also received grants or donations from Bedfordshire & Luton Community Foundation, the county’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Bedfordshire Police Partnership, Aldwyck Housing and others.

# Do you know somebody who deserves the title Young Person of the Year? To nominate logon to or write, enclosing a stamped-addressed-envelope, to YOPEY, Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road, Stradishall, Newmarket CB8 8YN for a paper entry form. Entries close on July 31.