Between his volunteering and his studies, Bede student Lewis admits he doesn’t get much time to put his feet up.

Fortunately for the 16-year-old from Stockton, making a difference and helping others is what he enjoys most.

Now his efforts, particularly over the last year, have been recognised.  Lewis was one of seven young members selected to pick up a British Citizen Youth Award at a glittering celebration at The Palace of Westminster in London on behalf of Stockton’s youth-led movement, Bright Minds Big Futures.

“The award recognises everything that the group does in the community,” said Lewis, who signed up last year, keen to make a difference and have his voice heard.  

As a group of young volunteers working together with Stockton Borough Council, the team’s aim is to help make the area a great place to grow up.

It means a lot to Lewis who explained: “I have seen both sides of our communities.  Growing up in deprived areas of Thornaby and Stockton, I have seen friends, loved ones and neighbours impacted by crime, drugs and drink driving.”

But through his volunteer work he has also witnessed first-hand those striving to make positive change. 

He said: “There is the bad side to our communities, but also the good.  There are people wanting to make a difference, bringing people together and working to make things better.”

Lewis is a volunteer at Roseberry Community Consortium, a charity set up to help guide disadvantaged young people in the Tees Valley by offering music tuition, dancing, singing, life skills and horticulture.  He also started raising funds for the Great North Air Ambulance Service.

A keen drummer, he started out hitting pans as a toddler, until his mum bought him his first small drum kit.  The Roseberry consortium offered him the chance to combine his passion for music with his determination to help others.

“It is about developing confidence through creativity,” he said, while at the same time helping youngsters pick up a greater sense of self-worth, paving the way to better things.

Passionate about his hometown, when Lewis heard about Bright Minds Big Futures it’s no surprise he wanted to get involved.  Just a year on he plays an active role.

Led by a Big Committee, the group sets up and delivers a Big Plan, with workshops and events promoting equality, diversity and health, raising money for good causes as well as holding leading figures such as councillors, MPs and police chiefs to account, with Youth Question Time events.

Lewis explained that most recently they have been working with the NHS gathering the views of young people around access to information and services surrounding sexual health and wellbeing.

They also play a part in large scale community events such as SIRF and the Festival of Thrift.

Already prestigious award winners, Bright Minds Big Futures received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2022.

This latest award, The Dame Mary Perkins British Citizen Youth Award, recognises the contribution made by groups of young people who have gone above and beyond for their community.

The accolade is only available to groups of young people aged under 18, with just one group selected to receive the honour each year.  Winners are presented with an Official Mounted Medal Presentation Plaque and certificates of recognition.

Thrilled to represent the wider team in London, Lewis, who also manages to fit in studying public services at Bede, and running his own DJ and entertainment business, all at just 16, said: “I want to help young people on Teesside and let them know that if I can do it, then they can too.

“There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. While you might not be able to make big changes, if you can make even a small positive change for the benefit of others then that feels pretty good.”

Councillor Lisa Evans, cabinet member for children and young people, said: "Lewis and the rest of the BMBF volunteers are a remarkable group of young people who are a credit to the borough. This latest richly deserved and prestigious award shows just how passionate they are about making Stockton-on-Tees a great place in which to live and grow up. Well done and keep up the fantastic work BMBF!”

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