Gallery: Saluting young heroes at Suffolk awards

MORE often than not, teenagers are in the news for all of the wrong reasons.

But yesterday, inspirational youngsters from across Suffolk were honoured at the Suffolk Young People of the Year (YOPEY) awards.

Ryan Jay was named the overall winner at the awards ceremony, held at the Seckford Theatre at Woodbridge School, for his work with fellow teenagers in the Gainsborough area of Ipswich.

The 16-year-old has helped to rebuild his community library over the past two years and established a youth club, known as Club4Teenz, to cut anti-social behaviour.

He runs arts and crafts sessions, cooking classes, healthy eating workshops , games and gardening and Ryan’s commitment has even seen him pay for items from his own pocket.

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Tony Gearing, founder of the awards, said: “The judges said that Ryan could teach the Prime Minister a thing or two about the big society.

“There is now very little anti-social behaviour outside the library, instead the kids go in and take part in the positive activities he lays on.”

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Ryan was handed a cash prize of �1,000 and will spend half on his club.

Another of the community-minded winners at yesterday’s ceremony was Billy Murkin from Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds. He too has been involved in engaging youngsters in more positive activities.

Billy, 17, said last night: “We attended a meeting last year where they talked about taking the youth shelter away and from there we formed a youth committee and eventually two youth clubs.

“I was a typical teenager before, always causing trouble, but the responsibility of being chair of the committee has made me realise there are benefits to being an active member of the community.

“It is great seeing different generations working together rather than being at war.” Billy won �500 while junior winner Holly Watson was handed �250.

Holly, 17, of Rubens Walk, Sudbury, launched a hard-hitting, anti-knife campaign in the wake of her brother Liam’s death.

She said: “You always think that other people have done more than you, so I am really pleased to have won.

“The awards are great because they recognise the good young people are doing.”

Referring to her brother, who was tragically stabbed to death in Sudbury last year, Holly said: “I think he would be pretty happy, he would be over the moon that I am doing something positive.”

Judges of the awards included chief constable of Suffolk Constabulary Simon Ash, chairman of Suffolk Police Authority Colin Spence, High Sheriff of Suffolk, Mrs Tessa Innes and chairman of Suffolk County Council, Eddy Alcock.

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