Sandy's Blog - Empowering young people to make a difference

Last week, I got the chance to meet the fantastic young people of Craigmount High School in Edinburgh as part of our support of the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI), the flagship programme of The Wood Foundation. This gives me a good opportunity to talk about our support for the programme and young people more broadly.

The YPI is active in more than 250 Scottish secondary schools and has empowered 175,000 young people to make a difference in their communities, channelling £4m of grants to grassroots, social issues charities.

It’s a fun, engaging concept with an important social purpose. How it works:  an entire year group within a school is split into teams and tasked with researching social issues in their area and local charities addressing those issues. Each team is then tasked with contacting its chosen charity and developing a creative and convincing presentation in a bid to secure the school’s £3000 YPI grant.  It helps pupils develop a host of life, learning and employment skills while raising awareness of social issues and channelling grants to local, grassroots charities. And while gaining skills, the students gain an important introduction to good citizenship and philanthropy and how to think about the kind of impact they want to have – something I think we’d all like to see more of in people of all ages.

At Standard Life Aberdeen we’re passionately committed to social mobility and supporting young people succeed, whether that is in education, starting out in work or giving back to their communities. So we’re delighted to partner with The Wood Foundation over three years in Edinburgh to help young people grow their skills, interests and make a difference in their communities.

So, back to Craigmount High School. I was hugely impressed with the maturity, confidence and creativity shown by the young people at the final. Following on from Year of Young People in Scotland last year, we know that giving young people the opportunity to consider what’s important to them, and how they can lead positive change in their community is something that benefits us all. Trying to choose between presentations on causes as different as domestic abuse, health, disability, loneliness in older people is no easy task. Thankfully there’s a clear scoring criteria to help the panel, and even then it was a difficult conversation and as one of the judges on the panel, we were pleased to reward Ruby, Cara, Heather and Olivia with a £3000 grant for their chosen charity, Health in Mind. The funding will pay for counselling sessions and support for people struggling with their mental health. The winning team really clearly communicated why mental health was so important to them, and how the money will make a tangible and lasting difference in the lives of the people who’ll benefit.

My hope is that all of the young people continue to consider how they can pursue the causes that are important to them, whether it’s fundraising, volunteering or social activism. As just one example, during the Women’s Aid presentation I had a very clear picture of the difference those girls will make in the future for women and girls everywhere if they keep speaking up with the clarity and passion they shared with us.

I’m delighted that our company is supporting YPI Scotland as lead sponsor in Edinburgh for the next 3 years, empowering more than 2500 students from 20 secondary schools each year to make a difference.

Sandy MacDonald
Head of Corporate Sustainability

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