Read Alexandra's story about how she came to be a Young Scot volunteer and what she's got out of her experience.
On the 12th of March, 2019, I was doing what any good university student does in their spare time: aimlessly browsing my Facebook feed. An ad appeared, calling for young people to share their opinions on ‘Technology Enabled Care’ (TEC). I was almost finished with my MA Linguistics, and I thought it could be an interesting opportunity for me to learn about something new, and a chance to voice how thankful I was for the technology that supported and supports people dear to me. I applied, and on the 13th of April I walked into the Young Scot office for the first time. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I had spent a lot of my time volunteering during my undergraduate degree. I volunteered with the Lothians Equal Access Programme for Schools (LEAPS), was a peer mentor, and proofread assignments for non-native speakers of English. But nothing came close to what the YS TEC Panel was like. I loved the initial meetings so much that in August 2019 I joined the Young Scot Health Panel, where our first task was to investigate the influence of alcohol advertising and develop policy recommendations to reduce alcohol harm. On both panels, with the help of the YS Co-design model, we had group discussions, spent hours exploring how each issue concerns young people, identifying areas with potential for improvements, creating solutions, reflecting on them, and looking ahead to the recommendations we’ll propose.
But it’s not just the process; it’s the people. This was all facilitated by the YS team. Ellie, our dedicated Co-design Officer, has been an absolute superstar and everyone that has worked with us or guided us has been wonderful. As a young person, you’re surrounded by a group of supportive individuals who want you to succeed and be the best you can be. And as for the other young people on the panels? I was lucky enough to meet some incredibly passionate, hard-working, wise-beyond-their-years young people, with different backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge. But no matter where Young Scot volunteers come from or where they’re going, they care about their communities and want to help make Scotland a better place.
My age and my nationality were two things that worried me when I first joined Young Scot. In March 2019 I was a few months away from my 25th birthday, and I’m now 26. I may have a typical British surname and a British passport, but I was born and raised in Cyprus. I came to realise that my age wasn’t a problem and that my experience benefitted my team. I also realised that Scotland is a welcoming, multicultural nation, and that as a British-Cypriot who fell in love with Edinburgh in 2014, I am also a young Scot.
You might be a slightly older young person if you’re at university or college, but you’re still a young Scot. If you care about others and you want to make a difference, don’t let your age stop you. You’ll have time to balance your university commitments with your Young Scot Panel. Especially during lockdown, Young Scot time was part of my self-care time. Meetings are fun, rewarding, and you’ll gain as much as you give.
If you’re a young person who wants to make a difference, apply to a Young Scot Co-design project. Don’t worry if you don’t have prior knowledge about the specific issue; it’s a chance to learn and grow. The services and policies Young Scot Panels look at either already affect you or will affect you eventually, so get involved. It might change your life.
The TEC Panel made me realise that I was happiest when I was helping others or contributing to a good cause, trying to make a difference. That’s why I’ve spent the last 10 months working on an MSc in Public Policy. I want to work in a field where I can learn about something new, take on new challenges, and use my problem-solving skills to figure out ways to improve situations, services, and outcomes, like I did with the Young Scot Health Panel. I want a job where I can make a difference, working in the Civil Service or in the Third Sector.
But first, I need to finish my dissertation, which builds on the policy recommendations the Young Scot Health Panel created. If you’re aged between 16-26 and are Scottish or a permanent resident of Scotland, please take my survey. It should take about 5-10 minutes, and will be open until midnight on the 9th of August.
Find out more about #YSHive and start exploring opportunities.