Rising Star Award – James Curtis
James was born profoundly deaf and when he was 2 and 4 and had sequential cochlear implants. Until this age, he had no speech but, after the operation thanks to AVUK and therapist Jaqueline Stokes, he is able to speak to a mainstream level. He is incredibly grateful to AVUK and wanted to do something to help them help and others to achieve as well as he has done and fulfill their potential.
One of James’ key roles has been mainly working with and on behalf of AVUK as their first Young Ambassador. He has represented them on several occasions such as pitching and speaking to a room of 400 people at the October Club dinner to raise money on their behalf. He has spoken to various schools about what it means to be deaf and how they can help deaf children across the country. Also, he has promoted AVUK’s Loud Shirt Day by writing to more schools as well as many celebrities and successfully managed to get many to join the campaign. Furthermore, he is currently helping to develop AVUK’s peer to peer network which I feel will be an essential support system for AVUK’s graduates.
For AVUK’s Loud Shirt Day campaign he managed to get many celebrities to participate in the campaign and by so doing, helped to raise awareness and money for the charity. His pitch to the October Club raised over half a million pounds for the charity which was a life changing amount for the charity. As well as this my pitch to the ‘Filanthropy After School Club’ resulted in AVUK being the charity that received the most pledges from the audience. All of this awareness resulted in AVUK’s profile being raised and also contributed to more funds being available for the charity which helped improve the speaking and listening skills of many of the deaf children that AVUK currently supports. The reason that this is all so important is because it provides a solid foundation for deaf children to fully integrate into mainstream society and excel. Most parents of newly diagnosed deaf babies do not know this is an option. James believes that it is crucial that he helps to spread the word and promote the amazing opportunity for so many deaf children that AVUK presents.
Rising Star Award – Liam Hackett
In Liam’s own words:
‘Look, I’m going to be totally honest and tell you that my initial idea of Ditch the Label came from anger. It came from the anger towards the people who had bullied me and through feeling failed by the support systems that were available. Telling me to ignore it or advising that people were only cruel because they were jealous did not help. From my work as the founder & CEO of Ditch the Label, I have found that so many people still harvest anger towards the things that happened to them growing up. And I understand.
It took a great deal of time and work for me to overcome my anger, and as soon as I did – I saw things very differently. We, as a society, are angry towards those who have and do bully. We brand them as “bullies” and villainise them within the media, movies and culture. It’s bad to be a bully, we’re taught. It isn’t cool. It’s wrong. We’ve heard it time and time again, but we know that up to 1 in 2 teens are still being bullied. In order to overcome bullying, we must think differently about it. We must suspend our own personal experiences, as terrible as they may seem and look objectively at the situation.’
Liam founded Ditch the Label, one of the UK’s largest and most ambitious anti-bullying charities. This is an incredible achievement for someone so young.
Each year, Ditch the Label provides award-winning support to thousands of young people aged 13-25 primarily online through partnerships with online games, social networks and via their website. They also work in partnership with schools, colleges, parents/guardians, young people and other youth organisations. Innovation is at the core of all that they do and they believe that they can, and will beat bullying. Liam is the founder and driver of this organisation; he has vision and grit in abundance.
Ditch the Label publishes the Annual Bullying Survey and other evidence based influencing papers (http://www.ditchthelabel.org/our-work/research-papers/). This is pioneering research designed to explore the complex and changing nature of bullying and the wider impact that it has upon the mental, emotional and physical health of young people.
Rising Star Award – Will Churchill
In his own words –
‘My entire university and professional careers have been spent seeing firsthand the impact students can have (not just students, anyone- ‘students’ is just my experience). If you give people the right support, the space to collaborate and create, then absolutely everyone has value to add to any problem.
What drives me is that we live in a time of unprecedented connectivity. Problems might be more prevalent now than ever before, but solutions are so much more attainable.
I love the buzz and the energy you get from seeing young people (a group that the media is continually fond of slating) engage with something they care about- seeing pure passion about an issue, or a problem, or a need, and then being able to channel that into something tangible, and something with a real impact. It’s why I’ve stuck with Enactus, its why I loved my job at Hubs, and its why I’ve started UniHack.’
He recently founded UniHack, which is an organisation aiming to develop sustainable solutions to local needs by bringing together students, corporates, and community interest organisations through hackathons. This venture has led to Will running a number of workshops that have not only given a positive impact to the participants involved in the programme but also to the communities they work in.
Previously, Will worked as the Social Enterprise Manager for the national charity Student Hubs. Whilst there, he oversaw the development of their social enterprise programme, and supported students and staff in its delivery. He is an active member of the Enactus UK Alumni, and currently using his experience (both from University as an Enactus student, and professionally) to mentor a number of Enactus teams across the UK. In this role he has been fortunate to win a number of awards for services, including the 2013 Enactus UK Alumni of the Year award, and an award in 2014 for ‘Best Training Session’.
While at University, during my time in Enactus, he managed a team running a project based in Sierra Leone, helping improve farming techniques and using the profit to increase quality of life. During this programme they innovated a new method of farming and pioneered a ‘Community Empowerment Fund’, securing children’s education.
“For me, Will is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met”. Through his work at University in the Enactus team at Southampton, he not only made a huge impact to farmers in Sierra Leone, he also inspired numerous other teams to be more ambitious in the work they were doing. Will is a humble and talented individual whose impact is considerably more widespread than he could have ever imagined. Through his work specifically with the alumni network he has single handedly and sometimes against other people’s opinions pioneered the ability to implement a number of technical solutions he has built. Without his input, dedication and strong mindedness, there would not be the opportunity and platform to build from. In Enactus, Will has empowered the support team to be more impactful in order to empower numerous other university students across the country. “It is also worth acknowledging that Will has made a personal decision to continue his impact work through the business he has recently set up rather than following significant sums of money. If we had more people like Will we would be a more successful world.”