I am an optimist – a glass half full kind of person. I tend to believe that the future is going to be better than the past and that things will improve. That is why I always feel invigorated when I see young people getting involved in their communities and in politics too.
As well as my regular visits to schools – 23 visits in the last year alone – I meet young volunteers in all parts of my constituency work. I encourage my constituency staff team, all but one of whom are aged under 30, to get involved in community life too.
Too often we hear about how young people aren’t involved in community life and how we need more young people volunteering. This isn’t my experience and while more volunteers of any age is a good thing I see young people playing their part in community life day in day out.
The image many have of politicians is of grey-haired old men wearing three-piece suits. This is getting further and further from the truth. Just last month a 21-year- old – Councillor Ed Darling – was elected to Knaresborough Town Council.
On Harrogate Council the youngest councillor is 20-years-old – Ash Teague – with another two in their 20s, one of whom, Rebecca Burnett, occupies one of the most senior positions on the council.
There are another four councillors in their 30s and three in their 40s.
You only have to look at the recently reformed Harrogate District Youth Council to see how young people are stepping forward with campaigns. Several local councillors have been to meet with the Youth Council to talk about campaigning and how to get results.
In last year’s Volunteer Oscars – started by former Mayor John Fox and entering its tenth year in 2017 – there is a Young Volunteer of the Year award which attracts a great many nominations.
In 2016 it was won by Amy Honeysett who volunteers at St Michael’s Hospice as part of their Just ‘B’ service.
The service offers emotional support to bereaved young people and their families.
The citation nominating Amy praised her ability to help children explore their feelings at a traumatic time for them and her willingness to go the extra mile to offer support.
Last year’s Rio Olympics again showed how young people, most of whom have spent years training and pushing themselves, want to excel in sport and represent their country at the highest level. I was proud to be at the Civic Reception in Leeds to welcome back our Olympic heroes.
Two of those Olympic heroes are also local heroes – Jack Laugher and Oliver Dingley.
And in August last year I was fortunate enough to hear first-hand about some of the social action projects taking place in our area as part of the National Citizens Service scheme. National Citizens Service was started by then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012. Its aim is to get young people involved in their community, talking to one another and building their life skills. Thousands have taken advantage of the scheme in North Yorkshire.
So that is why I feel positive about the future – it is because I see young people who are our future doing positive things. And I believe whether we have misgivings about recent political events or not – we should all feel positive about the future.
We have great young people who are going to be the leaders of our country, in our town halls, in our businesses and in our communities. I see them day in and day out.
They are an inspiration.