Tain Royal Academy Alumni Case Study:       5 years of engagement | £15,000 granted

Tain Royal Academy students at the YPI 2016 National Event | Picture by Fraser Band Photography

Tain Royal Academy’s S2 pupils have been taking part in YPI as part of their RMPS curriuclum since 2012.  Over the past 5 years, hundreds of students have engaged with local charities through YPI and the school has contributed YPI Grants totalling £15,000 to the local community.  Tain Royal Academy’s YPI alumni from different year groups reflect on their experiences of the programme, the impact that YPI has had on them, and their ongoing relationships with several local charities.

HUG – Action for Mental Health

2012/13 Winning Team

Gemma was part of the first winning team from Tain Royal Academy in 2012.  Her group chose the charity HUG: Action for Mental Health as they felt that mental health was taboo social issues and they also had some personal interest as some members of the group had first-hand experience of mental health issues.

“As a group we wanted to raise awareness of mental health as it is such a broad issue, and change the way it was approached in school,” Gemma says.  “I really enjoyed the project as I felt we had made a big difference to our charity, raised awareness of the issues, discussed the prospect of mental health being included in the school curriculum and even helped to set up a daughter organisation call ‘SPEAK; This is Me’ for young people experiencing mental health issues.”

By taking part in YPI Gemma feels that she grew immensely in confidence and whereas previously she would have shied away from public speaking, the prospect of winning and really making a difference to a real-life issue forced her to push herself to do the best she could.  It also got her interested in volunteering and has been a real talking point for interviews and personal statements, which has helped with University applications.

Made in Tain

2013/14 Winning Team

Shannon who is now in S5 was part of the group who won Tain Royal Academy’s YPI Grant in 2013 for Made in Tain – a social enterprise that supports young people with mental health difficulties and disabilities to develop employability skills. The school has close ties with the charity as it was originally set up to support students from St. Duthus, the local ASN school, who also attend Tain Royal Academy part-time. Since completing the YPI programme in S2, Shannon has continued to volunteer with the charity spending time helping the students to make products such as candles and soaps, and also helping them to build their confidence. She has also influenced her mum to volunteer with the charity.

Shannon explains, “Helping other students to build their confidence felt good. I liked being able to give something back to the charity and continuing to work with the students also helped me to build my confidence. It was like work experience.” YPI also gave Michaela new perspective on how many people have disabilities in the local area. “It was shocking to find out how many people had disabilities and needed Made in Tain.”

“I liked being able to give something back”

Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Inverness Therapy Centre

2013/14 Finalist

Michela, an S5 pupil focused on the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Inverness and District Therapy Centre with her group for their YPI project in 2013. This charity is very close to their hearts as one of the group’s mums suffers from MS. The group visited the therapy centre several times after school and at weekends to speak to staff and patients about what living with MS is like and how the centre supports people. Michela’s group didn’t win the YPI grant but this didn’t stop them raising money for the therapy centre.

“When we didn’t win, we didn’t just want to drop it. It meant a lot to us,” says Michaela. “We decided to raise money because we wanted to give them something for what they’d taught us. Because MS affects so many people we thought we could make a difference. We also wanted to make the school more aware of MS and the charity.”

The group has now raised almost £3000 for the therapy centre through sponsorship for a daring zip line challenge and other fundraising activities at school.

SOAR Youth Project

2014/15 Winning Team 

Now in S4, Liam and Findlay won the school’s YPI Grant in 2014 for SOAR Youth Projects which provides after school and holiday clubs for children and young people with a wide range of additional support needs in the Inverness area. The boys decided to focus on this charity because they knew that a number of Tain Royal Academy students are supported by the charity and they believe that it provides a very important service for their local community.

Findlay believes that YPI improves young people’s communication skills. “It boosts your people skills because you’re communicating with others and engaging with them and going out into the community. This doesn’t always get boosted through normal school.”

“It boosts your people skills because you’re communicating with others and engaging with them and going out into the community.  This doesn’t always get boosted through normal school.”  

Raigmore Hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit

2015/16 Winning Team

In 2015, Chloe, Allana, Molly and Mollie won the YPI grant for Raigmore Hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) in Inverness. After discussing social issues affecting their community, the girls knew that they wanted to focus on a charity that helps children. They also have friends and family who have been supported by the SCBU, which gave them extra motivation to win the grant for the unit. Chloe reflects that “Listening to the stories that we were being told was quite hard to deal with at times because you realise how real and how big a problem it is”

They were able to visit the SCBU several times to see what goes on behind the ward doors and speak to parents of babies in the unit. The YPI grant has contributed towards the cost of improving accommodation at Raigmore for parents. The girls have continued to fundraise for the SCBU through craft fairs and sports day activities and have raised almost £700 in addition to the £3000 YPI grant so far.

CHAS at Home Service

2016/17 Winning Team

2016’s winning team of S2 students, Maya, Hannah, Antonia and Verity, represented the Inverness CHAS at Home service. After searching online for charities that they hadn’t previously heard of, they read about the CHAS at Home service and were inspired by the work that the charity does in the Highlands, so decided that this would be a great cause to support. CHAS at Home teams care for children and young people with life limiting conditions in their own homes between hospice visits or when they are too ill to travel. The CHAS at Home Inverness service is using their YPI grant to pay for specialist equipment for families in Inverness and for activities that sick children and their siblings can to do together.

Reflecting upon their YPI experience, Hannah explains that “YPI helps you to learn more about your community and you find out about charities that you might not have heard of. Even if you’ve heard of them, you learn more about them and that they’re actually making a big difference but you didn’t know about it. You’re also helping others to learn about different charities, educating them and raising awareness.”

It is clear that the students from Tain Royal Academy have all gained a lot from their YPI experience, so what would be their advice to students starting their YPI journey?

  • Be passionate and choose something that you care about – YPI is an opportunity to better understand social issues affecting your community and what local charities do to help people.  You will be surprised by the numbers of people who are affected by the social issues and rely on services provided by local charities.
  • Embrace the opportunity – It can be challenging to contact people that you don’t know, meet people directly affected by a serious social issues and stand up in front of a large audience, but if you embrace this opportunity YPI can help build your confidence and prepare you for S4/5/6.
  • Work as a team and use your talents – Working in a team is a really important part of the programme. You need to divide the work between group members and make sure to use different people’s skills. Working to a deadline to pull together the final presentation will definitely improve your team working skills!
  • Make sure to visit your chosen charity – Use the visit as an opportunity to learn about what they do. You may also get the chance to meet people who are supported by the charities and this can be the most rewarding part of YPI – you realise that you can make a difference!

Ultimately, they all feel that through YPI they were “helping others, accomplishing something good for the community and giving something back.” ……

and you can have the opportunity too.