A teenager who has volunteers much of his spare time educating the public about the police and supporting local events and disabled young people is in a competition that hails the ‘giving to others’ of Bedfordshire’s younger generation.
Seventeen-year-old Ben Wright is passionate about his involvement with the Bedfordshire Police Cadets, something he has been doing while also working as a full-time apprentice.
His evenings and weekends are dedicated to events and schemes designed to bridge the gap between young people and the police force.
Now he has been nominated for the Atlas Young People of the Year awards or ‘YOPEYs’. YOPEYs are Oscars for young people who ‘give to others’.
There is £2,000 to be won by young people and shared with good causes. There is a top prize of £800 to be won by a young person or group of young people who help others. The young person or group keeps £400 and invests the other £400 in a good cause of their choice. Second place will win £400, third and junior winners £200 each, all similarly shared.
Ben, of The Glebe, Clapham, was nominated by Sarah Bigg, Programme Administrator for Bedfordshire Police Cadets.
She said: “Ben has been a cadet since September 2014 and to date he has given over 100 hours to assist Bedfordshire Police with crime prevention and community events. Here he speaks to different people and interacts with youngsters to raise awareness of the police and their work.
“Some of the events he has been an important part of are: The Annual Remembrance for Road Victims, Remembrance Day Ceremony and Keech Cottage ‘Light Up A Life’ service.
“In addition to this Ben attends a weekly training session where he gains skills to help him promote a practical understanding of police among young people.
“Not only has he excelled in these sessions, he has also taken an active role in supporting fellow cadets with additional needs.”
Ben explained a little more about his work with the cadets: “There are couple of cadets with learning difficulties and I have made a point of offering them additional support. If they have any problems when taking part in a policing event, they can come to me to ask questions or get some help.
“I’ve wanted to be a policeman since the age of eight and couldn’t wait to join the cadets when I turned 16. I really enjoy what the cadets do. I want young people to have a good view of the police and I help do this by speaking to them at community events. Dressed up in uniform we can help bridge the gap between young people and the police as they feel they can relate to me as I am closer to their age, rather than someone in their 30s.
“I do try and go the extra mile. I will look at rotas of events and will volunteer in areas where no one else will.
“One of my favourite programmes is called Operation Vision, where we go door to door and speak to people about the police force and answer any questions they may have. We do this regularly and in different places in Bedfordshire, such as Kempston and Queens Park. “
Proud mum Lisa said: “Ben is not your average teenager, he is very responsible and grounded and works hard at what he does. He is involved in the cadets while working full time and gives them all his spare time.
“He thrives on recognition of his efforts from adults and strives to work even harder.”
Ben’s dream of joining the police could become reality as soon as he turns 18. He plans to train to become a special constable, the police’s unpaid part-time officers, while looking for a full-time job following the completion of his apprenticeship in IT.
YOPEY has been praised by national leaders. Prime Minister David Cameron said YOPEY entries show determination and “resolve to make a difference”.
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: “Young people like Ben are the key to success when bridging sometimes hostile gaps between youngsters and law enforcement. Keep up the good work!”
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.
An awesome awards ceremony will be held at Cranfield University this October.
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 yopey.org 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 August 17.
Typical entries include fundraisers, young carers, club leaders, volunteers on projects at home or abroad and young leaders who pass on academic or sporting skills. YOPEY is always revealing new positive role models and the qualification for entry is easy – simply, the young person has to ‘give to others’.
YOPEY is open to young people aged from 10 to 25, who should live, work or study in Bedfordshire. But they do not have to meet all three conditions. They could go to school, college or university in Beds but live elsewhere and vice versa.