The achievements of 70 students from Crawley and Gatwick schools were commended at an awards ceremony on Friday, April 27 at the Hilton London Gatwick Airport.
The event was the finale to the Be the Change programme, an initiative to boost the aspirations and job prospects of young people aged between 13 and 14. Over the last six months the students have been taking part in a series of activities designed to improve hope, happiness, confidence, relationships, to change negative behaviour and to introduce them to career opportunities.
The students were congratulated and awarded certificates by the programme's sponsors and volunteer business guides alongside the Be the Change Team, headed up by Graham Moore, co-founder, and LoveLocalJobs.com. to help 13 and 14 year-olds negotiate the gap between education and employment. Graham said: "It has been an incredible journey not just for these amazing young people, but for everyone who has been involved - the teachers, the business volunteers and ourselves. Over the last few months we have been inspired by the way in which the students have engaged with us and their peers and as a result have become happier, more confident in their abilities and more excited about their futures."
The students come from seven secondary schools in the area: Ifield Community College, Hazelwick School, Holy Trinity Church of England Secondary School, St Wilfrid's Catholic School, The Gatwick School, Oriel High School and Thomas Bennett Community College.
Phil Hunt from Holy Trinity School, said: "I have been so impressed with the whole process. The students have loved being a part of it as have I, watching them develop at each stage of the programme. I am sure these young people will continue to grow and head in the right direction. This process has certainly helped in a big way."
Gary Peters, Founder of LoveLocalJobs.com, said: "It's not easy for lots of young people in the UK and many of the students who take part in Be the Change have already had to face challenges that most of us couldn't imagine. Our aim is to help them to value both themselves and other people, to believe in themselves and to develop 21st Century skills that will enable them to take responsibility for their lives and future ambitions. It's been an amazing journey and we have been overwhelmed by the level of support from the Gatwick and Crawley business community - with 40 volunteer business guides from 7 local businesses."
Be the Change Crawley and Gatwick has been sponsored by Arora Hotel, B&CE, Crawley Borough Council, Gatwick Airport (headline sponsor), Hilton London Gatwick Airport, NatWest and Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust.
Gatwick Airport's Head of Community Engagement, Alison Addy, said: "We are extremely proud of the students who have taken part in the Be the Change programme and all that they have achieved throughout. As headline sponsor, Gatwick is committed to supporting young people in the local community to have the confidence and opportunity to excel in their future careers."
Siobhan Melia, Chief Executive at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We have had a fantastic experience working with Be the Change. It's been wonderful to see the positive response from the young people we have met and the scheme has been a brilliant opportunity for our staff to learn and grow - while giving something back to the communities we serve."