Banchory Academy students Issey and Elysia won their school’s YPI Grant for LGBT Youth Scotland in December 2015. Taking part in their school’s YPI Final, presenting to their year group about LGBT issues and winning the YPI grant for LGBT Youth Scotland had a huge impact on them as individuals, but also had a significant impact upon Banchory Academy as a whole and a number of other Aberdeenshire secondary schools.
When Banchory Academy’s S5 students started YPI in their PSE classes, Issey suggested to Elysia that they should work together and research LGBT Youth Scotland. The girls knew that working together would allow them to work to their strengths – Issey is very talented at creating films while Elysia is good at getting a message across through writing and presenting. Issey already had a personal connection with LGBT Youth Scotland and they knew that the charity hadn’t been represented by any other Banchory Academy students in previous YPI finals.
Elysia and Issey were apprehensive about emailing or phoning the charity at first and admit that they procrastinated for as long as possible before getting started! When they emailed the Aberdeen LGBT support group, they quickly realised that there was a gap in LGBT Youth Scotland’s service provision in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire. The girls knew that LGBT young people in their community would benefit from more support which would enable them to meet more frequently. This became their motivation to win the YPI grant. Visiting their charity’s offices in Edinburgh or Glasgow would have been too difficult and expensive so the girls used their initiative and organised Skype calls with a representative of LGBT Youth Scotland. During these skype calls, they discussed lots of ideas about how the £3000 could be spent in Aberdeenshire and they were really excited about what they could achieve in local schools if they won the grant.
“It definitely makes you a better person. It makes you more sympathetic and changes your attitude completely.”
The girls say that they have a much better understanding of LGBT issues since doing the research for their YPI presentation. Although Issey identifies herself as part of LGBT community and has used LGBT Youth Scotland’s website for support in the past, she became much more aware of the diversity of LGBT young people’s experiences and learned about issues that other LGBT young people have struggled with that she hasn’t.
The girls believe that completing their YPI presentation has strengthened employability skills including their research and teamwork skills.
“It makes you ask each other ‘what are you good at?’ and identify your skills and interests.”
Before starting YPI, Elysia always preferred to do projects by herself but YPI challenged her to work as part of a team. She thinks that one of the main benefits of YPI is that:
“it makes you do things that you didn’t know you could do like speaking in front of a huge crowd.”
After delivering a passionate presentation and creating an emotional short film (see below), the highlight of their YPI experience was the feeling of winning the £3000 grant:
“The nicest part was seeing all your hard work actually coming to something. It makes you think if you work hard, something like this could happen again. It’s very motivating.”
This grant has been used to fund teacher training sessions from LGBT Youth Scotland in Banchory Academy and three other Aberdeenshire secondary schools which is helping the schools to work towards their LGBT Youth Scotland Charter Mark.
In addition to winning the YPI grant to fund teacher training, the girls have set up a LGBT support group in their school and organised ‘lunch and learn’ awareness raising sessions for staff. In the aftermath of the fatal shootings at a night club in Orlando in 2016, which were motivated by homophobia, Elysia and Issey wanted to do even more to raise awareness about LGBT issues and to raise funds for the victims’ families. They succeeded in raising £283 by making and selling rainbow ribbon bracelets and charging students 50p to sign a rainbow flag, which now hangs in the school to show Banchory students’ support for people who identify as LGBT.
Elysia and Issey believe that another of the many benefits of YPI is that people take you more seriously because they see that you’re passionate about a social issue:
“It helps you to connect with people your age emotionally because you’re passionate about an issue. People see you in a different light when you’re speaking so passionately about something.”
Reflecting on the impact of YPI for young people, Issey says that:
“It definitely makes you a better person. It makes you more sympathetic and changes your attitude completely. Before YPI you wouldn’t have the initiative to raise awareness for charities. Everyone’s so obsessed about what’s going on with them and how they look to people. It makes you think about the bigger picture and not just what’s happening in your little bubble. You become more aware of people in your school and community who may be struggling with the same things you are. YPI might help someone you didn’t know needed help. You don’t know who you’re helping. You could be helping your best friend, brother or sister, mum or dad. That’s the best part of it.”