If my first month as Chair of the British Youth Council has shown me anything, it’s that our members continue to punch above their weight time and time again!
Whilst looking back on all the achievements of the last few weeks it almost feels unbelievable that so much has happened in such a short time. Starting of course by welcoming our alumni back for our 70th Anniversary celebration, updating them on all your wonderful campaigns and of course our new strategy – a truly excellent evening celebrating 70 years of championing #YouthVoice.
Whilst in a reflective mood, how could we not take a moment to proudly remember again that, for the first time ever, the Make Your Mark ballot was filled out by over one million young people?! This, followed by the truly inspiring day of debates and speeches in the House of Commons, sent a clear message to anyone listening – that the younger generations of today are well informed, and should be listened too.
Seeing Members of Parliament stop by to be wowed by your arguments, and the response from all sides when knife crime and votes at 16 were voted the campaign priorities for the year, was incredible. It shows again what we at the British Youth Council have always known – as young leaders of today we are showing our elders the true way to debate; disagreeing respectfully and moving forward collectively, all to ensure we’re campaigning for what our members want.
Most recently we saw this year’s launch of the Youth Select Committee report, focussing on the value and current inequalities of work experience. Attended by everyone from British Youth Council members to members of the House of Lords, it showed the true impact young voices can have on changemakers when we present factual, reasoned arguments that show a clear route to real societal or legislative change.
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and the whole of the British Youth Council is looking forward to continuing to win for young people in the new year, which will undoubtedly be even more successful than 2018 has been!
“I have to be honest, I’m a little bit nervous.”
These were the opening words of my speech to become your next Chair of the British Youth Council. They ring as true now as they did then, and they’re words I know everyone affiliates to at some point in their life – never more so than as a young person, when you’re putting yourself firmly out of your comfort zone.
So, for those of you I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet; I’m Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, I’m from Cornwall, and I came to the British Youth Council because of my genuine belief in achieving equality for all in education. I was fortunate enough to attend the British Youth Council Annual Council meeting in 2017 – as part of the National Union of Student delegation – and I haven’t looked back since. I joined the Trustee Board that Autumn, and have spent the last 12 months throwing myself into as many different events, conventions and opportunities as possible. I want to learn anything and everything about this wonderful organisation and the young people who make it as such.
My reason for doing so is quite simple; I fundamentally believe that to be an effective trustee you have to constantly be doing as much as possible to understand the members you serve.
These are some things I will strive to do whilst serving as your chair; attending conventions and events specifically outside the bubble of London; bringing new, different and diverse organisations into our membership family; and most importantly of all, using this platform to elevate the voices of others at every possible opportunity.
My journey in youth voice started in a Students’ Union, with the simple idea between myself and friends that more should be done to raise awareness of student fundraising on campus. We launched a campus fundraising group, prioritised local charities focused on student mental health, and by the end of the first year, students had more than doubled the amount of money raised for charities on campus. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, I was standing to be President of Falmouth and Exeter Students’ Union.
It’s a story as old as time; I’d never imagined myself becoming a ‘leader’, but found I was able to because of the support, encouragement and kindness of others. Everyone reading this can remember a time when they wouldn’t have taken that leap forward if not for the kind words of others. It’s something I want to take into my time as Chair of the British Youth Council.
Being President and Chair of the Trustee board at Falmouth and Exeter Students’ Union, my life was opened up to a whole world of opportunities that shaped my politics and strengthened my values. It also proved to me, time and time again, that young people are often shut out of the decisions that most affect us for no other reason than our age.
This is something we all hear from our members too often. But whilst my previous words about being nervous are true, if there’s one thing I’ve had reaffirmed constantly, it is this – when surrounded by people who care about you and care about the same issues as you, not only do nerves become easier to conquer, but our collective voices become harder to ignore. With this in mind, I’m genuinely excited to work with the excellent board of trustees over the next two years – putting the new strategy into action, holding ourselves and the charity to the highest possible standards, and throwing our voices behind your campaigns to keep on winning for young people.
So whether you’re passionate about votes at 16, tackling knife crime or campaigning to end period poverty; whether you’ve been involved with the British Youth Council for several years or your youth organisation is just getting started – I’m really excited to meet you all and can’t wait to campaign on all things #YouthVoice with everyone. If I have just one simple ask of our members it is this – keep us in the loop with all of your campaigns, your events, your new ideas and (of course) your wins. The British Youth Council is here to be your biggest cheerleader, to amplify your voices even further and support you in everything you’re doing.