Nominee Aimee finds a corner of town that boosts her confidence

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Teenager Aimee Lau enjoyed a brief stint helping at a youth centre in Dunstable so much that she continued volunteering there.

Now the 16-year-old schoolgirl is in a contest that hails the achievements of youngsters in Bedfordshire.

Aimee, of Houghton Regis, has been nominated for Atlas Young People of the Year or YOPEY, which has £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, with the winner keeping £400 and investing the remainder in a good cause of their choice. The runner-up will win £400, and third place and junior winners £200 each, also shared.

Aimee was put forward by Jacqui Groom-Tully, senior community and young people’s officer at Dunstable Town Council, for her contribution to Grove Corner, the council’s young people’s centre on High Street North.

This is open three nights a week to any youngsters, plus one night a week for a Pokemon club and another night for adults with autism.

Aimee had never used the centre but went along to help for her voluntary placement section of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme. When she had completed the necessary hours she said she had enjoyed it so much she asked if the could continue.

Now for over a year she has been there every Friday night helping around a dozen youngsters, aged 10-13, and she has personally grown in confidence.

At first she was a counter receptionist but Jacqui said: “Aimee blossomed into a competent volunteer.”

“Aimee’s personal development has been amazing. From being very quiet and shy she is now able to mix well with the youngsters and support them in arts and crafts.

“She has also turned into a listener for young people, someone they can turn to and discuss problems with. That’s been helpful to the youngsters. They like someone nearer their own age that they can relate to.

“Aimee is bright, funny, and a joy to work with. She is a excellent role model.”

Aimee said that when she went along to the centre, adding: “the youngsters were really nice, the staff were all welcoming and it just made me feel good and confident”.

She enjoys doing the arts and crafts and said: “One time we made Chinese lanterns. I am of Chinese heritage and enjoyed showing that culture to the youngsters.

“When I first went I was shy and my social skills were not that great. But my self-esteem is better and I like to think I get on well with the youngsters.

“This has given me a taste for more volunteering and youth work.”

Aimee goes to Manshead School in Caddington, where she is a mentor to pupils in ethics and philosophy and also helps others with reading. She wants to study politics at university.

YOPEY founder Tony Gearing said: “Aimee is typical of many young people who do some voluntary work in their community and enjoy it so much that they want to continue.”

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 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.

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 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 July 31.

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.

Schools, youth organisations, churches and charities across Beds are being urged to nominate their young people. If their nominee wins, they can receive half the prize money. Family and friends can also nominate but they cannot win prize money. Young people can even nominate themselves.