Finalists 2017

Read a little bit about this year’s Sunday Mail Young Scot Awards finalists…

Young Hero sponsored by the Co-Op Food

A special award honouring very special young people who have shown amazing courage or carried out an incredible act of bravery.

Chelsea Cameron, 18, Dundee

The teenager stole the hearts of the nation when she penned a heart-breaking open letter to her drug-addicted parents who weren’t there to celebrate her achievements, like her exam results, but who taught her that drugs wreck lives.

Her blog post, which went viral, explained how she had to cope with their drug abuse and criminality from a young age. But instead of blaming them, she thanked them for providing an example of how not to live.

Lauchlan Muir, 12, Bo’ness, Falkirk

The schoolboy has raised more than £10,000 for Children In Need by posing as a floating human statue in shopping centres up and down the country. This involves standing still for hours at the time, only moving when a passer-by throws a coin his way – quite a feat for an 11-year-old.

In November, Lauchlan received the first ever Sir Terry Wogan Fundraiser of the Year Award in recognition of his hard work. He beat competition from tens of thousands of other young fundraisers and was presented with the accolade by Sir Terry’s son Mark during the Children in Need TV programme.

Lauchlan, who raised more than £3500 for last year’s appeal, has been fundraising since he was five. After winning a Pudsey Bear in a school raffle, he went home and watched the Children in Need show. After hearing about all the good causes who benefit from the funds, he started his campaign.

Olivia Preston, 17, Bonnyrigg, Midlothian

The deaf teenager flew the flag for Scotland in this year’s Rickshaw Challenge for Children in Need, taking part in a 470-mile cycle from Jedburgh in the Borders to London.

Olivia, who is a mentor for other deaf youngsters, was part of the six-strong team who raised an astonishing £3.8million for charity. The schoolgirl, who had a cochlear implant fitted when she was two years old, admits growing up deaf has not always been easy. She credits Edinburgh-based group Deaf Action with showing her that deafness did not have to restrict her life choices and opportunities.

Olivia, who now volunteers with the group, said: “I love to support other young deaf people because I know how it feels to face bullying and isolation, so can share my experiences and help them to feel better about their own deafness.”

 

Sport sponsored by sportscotland

This award celebrates people who, through their efforts and determination, have achieved the extraordinary in sport. And it’s not just for those who excel in their chosen sport – it could be someone who spends their free time training others in a sport they love.

Rhys McCole, 16, Greenock, Inverclyde

The talented boxer has beaten the odds by overcoming six disabilities to get in the ring and win three national titles.

Rhys is one of the rising stars of the boxing world, despite living with autism, asthma, multiple holes in his heart, visual disorder Meares-Irlen syndrome, an auditory processing disorder and dyslexia.

The teenager, who took up the sport when he was 10, was crowned Boxing Scotland’s 52kg national open champion. Rhys competes on an equal footing with other able-bodied boxers, making him the first para-disabled fighter competing in mainstream boxing in the UK.

Laura Muir, 23, Dundee

Last month, the runner was described as “a once-in-a-generation athlete” by UK Athletics performance director Neil Black after she won two golds at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade. Laura triumphed in the 1500m and 3000m races, showing her closest rivals a clean pair of heels and winning fans across the world by insisting on doing a lap of honour, despite protests by organisers.

In the last eight months, the student vet has set five British records and two European records at distances ranging from 1000m to 5000m. In January, she smashed the UK indoor record over 5000m in Glasgow, producing the 10th-fastest outing ever.

With only two other European women having gone quicker, it slashed 15.03 seconds off the then world record set by fellow Scot Liz McColgan-Nuttall in 1992. Only three Britons – Paula Radcliffe, Jo Pavey and Zola Budd – have run faster outdoors than the new indoor benchmark.

Maria Lyle, 17, Dunbar

The inspirational sprinter has thrived in athletics, despite living with diplegic cerebral palsy, and she has established herself as one of the most recognisable paralympic athletes in the UK.

Maria stole the hearts of the nation when she won three medals at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. She took home a silver in the T35-38 4x100m relay and bronze medals in the T35 100m and 200m.

The teenager was just 14 when she came bounding on to the athletics stage and she has been setting world records and winning European titles ever since. Maria has won five European Championship golds and a gold and two silvers at World Championship level in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.

 

The Arts  

Celebrating those who are passionate about the arts, whether it’s sculpture, theatre, opera, dance, photography or film. This award honours people who make a difference to their local community by sharing their time or creations.

Laura, 21, & Sarah Ayoub, 24, Bearsden, Glasgow

Classical music sisters Laura and Sarah are on their way to becoming as successful as their pal Nicola Benedetti – after getting a big break from superstar producer Mark Ronson. Violinist Laura and cellist Sarah have been snapped up by Decca Records and are being tipped for the top. They impressed Ronson after they posted a classical version of his hit Uptown Funk on YouTube. The sisters were invited to Abbey Road Studios to collaborate with the world-famous producer on a new cover of the song, which was played at the Brit Awards. The Scots-Egyptian duo, who have performed at festivals and concerts in Europe and the Middle East, shot to No1 in the Classical Chart with their song Melodies from Scotland, which was recorded with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The sisters recently returned to their old school Douglas Academy to perform the song for Burns Night with the school’s orchestra, inspiring the young musicians, as well as the community who came to watch the performance.

Joe Gardner, 19, Clarkston, Glasgow

The teenage comic set up Glasgow’s Teenage Comedy Night in January 2016 after becoming the first winner of the Gilded Balloon’s Edinburgh Fringe Class Clowns competition. The contest – which is the younger sibling of the famous So You Think You’re Funny? – was open to all secondary school pupils in Scotland and Joe came away as the runaway winner.

Receiving his prize from comedy veteran Jo Brand, the former Williamwood High School pupil was tipped as the next Kevin Bridges. Joe has now made it his life’s mission to make comedy more accessible to young people by encouraging other teenagers to be brave and give stand-up a go. The Teenage Comedy Night he arranged last year, which was the first of its kind in the UK, was a roaring success and Joe would like to make it an annual event.

Charlie Stewart, 22, Glenfarg

The fiddler beat stiff competition to win this year’s Celtic Connections Young Traditional Musician of the Year title. Charlie, who picked up the fiddle when he was nine after deciding the pipes and the accordion were too noisy, impressed all the judges with his flair.

The musician is in his second year of a degree in music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, studying jazz bass with Mario Caribe and fiddle with Marie Fielding. He plays in two folk bands, Dosca and Levack Stewart Irving, and has played all over Europe, performing in Estonia, Belgium and the Czech Republic. In 2015 Charlie reached the semi-finals of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards, playing with harpist Becky Hill.

 

Health

Young people across Scotland are involved in supporting and inspiring others to improve their physical and mental health. They might be providing support in their communities, looking to change policy or services, working in healthcare or involved with healthcare charities.

Josh Quigley, 24, Livingston

Brave Josh has made it to Portugal – 7000 miles into his bid to cycle round the world to raise awareness of mental health issues. The inspirational 24-year-old set himself the 50,000-mile challenge after an agonising battle with depression led to him attempting suicide. On May 26, 2015, the former businessman, who is nicknamed the Tartan Explorer, drove his car at 80mph into a concrete barrier, a desperate move that could have ended his life but ended up changing it.

Lying in a hospital bed after his suicide attempt failed, Josh made a promise to use his second chance at life to help others who, like him, felt they couldn’t carry on. His incredible global adventure, which will take him through 80 countries and across six continents, is raising awareness and much-needed funds for mental health charities.

Grace Warnock, 11, Prestonpans, East Lothian

The schoolgirl, who has Crohn’s disease, headed up a campaign to make people more aware of “invisible” disabilities after she experienced negative attitudes when she used disabled toilets.

Grace designed a new sign for public loos that draws attention to the fact that people might not have a visible disability but may still need to use an accessible toilet. Her sign has been championed by her MSP Iain Gray and is now used at a growing number of sites, including the Scottish Parliament, sports centres, Edinburgh airport and Hibs’ Easter Road ground.

Grace continues to work tirelessly on her campaign, which has been taken up by Crohn’s and Colitis UK and has been featured around the world.

 

Ross Clift, 23, and Caitlin Clift, 19, Glasgow

The brother and sister have dedicated their time to raising money and awareness for Marie Curie, the charity who helped care for their late mother Ann.

She was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer in April last year and spent time at the Marie Curie Hospice in Springburn before she sadly passed away in August, aged just 47, with her family by the side.

Before she died, Ann encouraged Ross and Caitlin to organise a charity night, which they did, raising more than £5500. This paid for the running of the hospice for a day – a very special day – Christmas Day. The siblings are now going to make it an annual event and have created a new volunteer group for the charity called Glasgow City.

 

Entertainment sponsored by Scottish Citylink

There are so many ways to entertain – through song, dance, comedy and writing, among others. This award is not just for the famous but for the stars in our midst who entertain us every day.

Scott Reid, 23, Paisley

Scott, who became a cult figure overnight when he made his debut as Methadone Mick in Still Game, is now treading the boards in the National Theatre’s Olivier Award-winning production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

He was offered the lead role of Christopher Boone in the touring stage version of Mark Haddon’s acclaimed novel after producers clocked his performance in the hit BBC sitcom. The talented actor, who has just finished filming the next series of Line of Duty with Martin Compston, is a former professional footballer who cut his teeth at Paisley’s Pace Acting School.

Scott, who trialled for St Mirren and spent a season playing for Queen’s Park, puts his success down to his family and to Still Game stars Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill, who took a chance on him. The actor, who studied drama at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, hopes Methadone Mick will become a permanent Still Game fixture if the show returns for another season.

Hannah Moncur, 13, Birkhill, Angus

From queen of the basketball court to being an actress on a hit CBBC show, Hannah’s star is on the rise. The wheelchair athlete, who has also appeared in hospital drama Casualty, is being tipped as one of Scotland’s most promising child actors.

Hannah, who suffers from rare condition transverse myelitis, has refused to let her disability get in the way of her sporting and acting dreams, which include going to the Paralympics. She was just four months old when she was diagnosed with the neurological disorder, which affects one in five million. The condition damages communication between spinal cord nerves and the rest of the body and has left the Monifieth High School pupil confined to a wheelchair.

Despite having to endure multiple operations and hospital stays, Hannah refuses to let life get her down and strives for the top in all that she does. In 2014, she represented Scotland in the Lord’s Taverners National Junior Wheelchair Championships at under-15 level. Last year, she won the role of Chloe Reeves in CBBC’s The Dumping Ground, which is set in a children’s home.

 

Lewis MacDougall, 14, Edinburgh

The talented young actor is being hailed as Scotland’s next major star after inspirational performances in Hollywood movies Pan and A Monster Calls. Lewis got rave reviews for his leading role in A Monster Calls, in which he appears alongside Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones.

The schoolboy played Connor, a little boy haunted by a monster as he watches his mum succumb to cancer. The part must have been a particular challenge for Lewis, who lost his own mum Fiona to multiple sclerosis just 12 months before filming began.

Lewis’s first acting job was in Pan, playing Peter’s urchin mate Nibs. He hadn’t even considered an acting career before that and was attending a local drama group just for fun. Lewis has also finished filming Boundaries, with Christopher Plummer and Vera Farmiga, and The Belly of the Whale, with Pat Shortt.

 

Volunteering Sponsored by Glasgow 2018 European championship

This award celebrates those special people who give up their time and energy free of charge to help other people. This little bit of effort can make a huge difference to many causes.

Bethan Lang, 17, Kilbirnie, North Ayrshire

In 2015, Bethan went to Kenya with a group of friends and family to help the charity Vision Africa. She was introduced to a group of girls at the Seed of Hope project in Niarobi. Bethan found out the girls, who came from very poor families, wanted to start up a small bakery business once they had graduated from Seed of Hope.

Bethan had recently completed her National 5 in business and realised she could help the girls with a business plan. She spent the next few days with them, ensuring they understood the basics, and she provided much-needed support and motivation.

The teenager had saved a considerable amount for her trip and on leaving Kenya, she left the charity a start-up fund for the girls once they graduated.

When Bethan returned to Kenya last year, she discovered the girls had never received the money, so she took them to the nearest mall and purchased a new oven and other equipment for their bakery.

The following day, a new business was born. The three girls have been gifted hope and a chance of a future.

Care Family  Christmas Planners, Glasgow, aged 18-24

Without family to go home to, many young people spend Christmas in homeless accommodation, bed and breakfasts or in their own flat. That’s why Who Cares? Scotland supported this group of volunteers to organise Care Family Christmas.

Having experienced loneliness and poor mental health over the festive season themselves, this group of care-experienced young people came together to ensure no other young person felt alone at Christmas.

Thanks to the work of this group of volunteers, 57 care-leavers from 12 local authority areas across Scotland who would otherwise have been alone last Christmas Day had somewhere to go.

In the planning stages, they got together every week for three months. The group set about finding a venue, fundraising, sourcing food and kitchen equipment, inducting other volunteers, planning Christmas Day transport and most importantly, promoting the dinner to other young people.

 

Kyle Black, 21, Govan, Glasgow

Kyle completed his Care Inspectorate training and started as a Young Investigation Volunteer last September. The 21-year-old brought with him his knowledge and experience of being a young carer and of living in homeless accommodation.

He is committed to improving the lives of children and young people using care services across Scotland. Kyle speaks to the youngsters during inspections and ensures their views and opinions are recorded and passed on. Since starting volunteering, he has shown a real commitment and enthusiasm, even when experiencing difficulties with homelessness himself.

Kyle volunteers once a week at the Glasgow Night Shelter for destitute asylum seekers, supporting them by serving hot meals and sleeping on the floor in case they need help during the night. He also volunteers at a local food bank.

 

Environment Sponsored by Scottish Gas

These young people give their time and effort to help protect the world for future generations. The award covers all types of green issues, from recycling and global sustainability to ecology.

Zeki Basan, 17, Fort William

Zeki, who grew up in a remote house on the edge of the Cairngorms, is an off-grid teenager with a passion and skill for sharing the value of wild places with others.

By the time he left school, he had completed all three levels of the John Muir Award through the Cairngorms National Park Junior Ranger scheme. He has been delivering bush-craft sessions to other young people ever since.

In 2016, Zeki won a place at the School of Adventure Studies on Skye, where he lived alone in a tipi for nearly a year, leaving only briefly to travel to California to make his first short film, In the Spirit of John Muir.

His next film-making adventure was closer to home. Zeki walked and cycled across central Scotland using the country’s newest long-distance footpath, the John Muir Way. Zeki’s film Wild Along the Way aims to show that we can all enjoy wild places on our doorstep and that wildness can be found all around us.

RSPB Shetland Young Volunteers, aged 12 to 17

This dynamic group aim to connect young people with nature. Their volunteering throughout Shetland promotes the work of the

RSPB and helps others to experience nature first-hand on the isles.

The group use social media and other tools to encourage others to attend activities and get involved in conservation. Together, they paint signs and clear up beaches on some of the small uninhabited islands in Shetland that are popular with rare birds. By collecting rubbish from beaches, they have highlighted the effects of micro plastics on birds and wildlife.They also take part in RSPB activities out-with their programme, including ringing storm petrels on Fetlar. They encourage others through enthusiasm, hard work and the wonderful example they set – helping the battle for nature on Shetland.

The Green Salon, Fife College, Hill of Beath, Dunfermline

This is Scotland’s first totally green salon, where students are taught a new and innovative approach to hairdressing using all things “eco”. They use disposable towels to save on laundry and high-tech local extraction vents (LEVs) hover above cutting and colouring stations to remove traces of unwanted chemicals and clean the air, while forest scenes adorn the walls.

All the products they use are eco-friendly and they have not been tested on animals, prompting clients to think about the environment when they next buy shampoos and conditioners.

The students understand about recycling and disposing of plastics in carefully selected units. The dryers, flooring and units are all made from recycled materials and pupils must pass an environmental assessment to get their qualifications.

 

Community sponsored by The Scottish Government

This award celebrates the work accomplished by a young person who improves the lives of people within a community. They may have demonstrated good citizenship by influencing decision-making at local government level, participating in local action, or anything else that has made a huge difference to others in their community.

Dured Alhalabe, 21, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire

From volunteering at a local food bank, helping at the Christmas lights switch-on and making up hampers, Dured can’t do enough for the community who gave him a home. This time last year, the future looked bleak for Dured, who was living in a refugee camp in Jordan after fleeing with his family from the war-torn Syrian city of Homs. But in February 2016, the Alhalabes’ lives changed for the better when they were resettled in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons’ Relocation Scheme.

Grateful to the people who welcomed his family with open arms, Dured has been doing everything he can to give something back to the community. As well as volunteering at local projects, Dured, whose home city has been destroyed in the fighting between President Assad’s forces and revolutionaries, has become a spokesperson for the 70 Syrian refugees resettled in Aberdeenshire.

Dured, who has endured unimaginable suffering, likes to think of himself as a new Scot.

Angela Tortolano, 23, Cranhill, Glasgow

Growing up in Glasgow’s tough east end, Angela experienced a difficult upbringing which led to periods of homelessness. Determined that other young people should not have to go through what she did, she started working with local families facing challenges including alcohol and drug abuse and violent crime.

Over the past few years, Angela has set up several youth clubs that have benefitted hundreds of young people. One is in the Beacon, a housing scheme where there was very little for over-12s to do. She brought Glasgow Life, Family Action Rogerfield and Easterhouse (FARE) and others together to make sure those youngsters had somewhere safe and local to go to. In the Beacon, Angela encourages them on a weekly basis to make positive life choices like eating healthily and taking exercise.

After completing a community development degree at Glasgow University, Angela is now employed by MCR Pathways, who support Glasgow’s care-experienced young people. At night, she works with FARE, helping to tackle serious local issues such as gang violence.

Y Sort It, ages 11-25, Clydebank

This dedicated youth group are run by young people, for young people in West Dunbartonshire. Y Sort It are governed by a youth management board in which all the company directors are aged between 16 and 25 years old. These inspirational young volunteers own and run their own youth centre and mobile bus and offer a host of services that benefit young people in Clydebank and the surrounding areas.

From a Mums and Munchkins group who give support to young single mothers, to a Wrecked & Wasted Substance misuse initiative who help teenagers struggling with issues including drug and alcohol abuse, Y Sort It are right at the heart of the West Dunbartonshire community.

The group also run an LGBT youth club, a young carers support network and a Freshcreation Youth Arts Hub, who provide classes in everything from fashion design and graffiti art to singing lessons and creative writing. To date, Y Sort It have supported and encouraged more than 700 young people to participate and get involved in local projects.

 

Enterprise Sponsored by Skills Development Scotland

This award is for a future entrepreneur, someone who has demonstrated real flair and has used their passion to help growth and sustainability in their local community.

Erskine Music and Media Studios, Erskine

Erskine Music & Media Studio is a Community Interest Company run by young people for young people in the heart of Renfrewshire. Officially constituted in 2014, EMMS have developed a sustainable business model offering a wide range of opportunities. Young people receive training and hands on volunteering experience through many strands of creative industry, event management and delivery of incoming business.

As well as providing a modern, safe environment to learn and socialize – young people from EMMS have developed a number of key partnerships with Local Councils, Youth Services, HNS and other third sector and voluntary organisations providing live PA/Lighting Hire, Photography, Film Production and Event Management. Income from their business goes directly back into the project to deliver weekly executive meetings, media workshops, jam nights, recording/rehearsal sessions and beginner music classes. Volunteers gain valuable skills helping them onto further education and employment.

James McIlroy, 24, Aberdeen

James is a medical student at Aberdeen University who identified an unmet need in the treatment of patients suffering from the C.diff bowel infection, which can cause debilitating ulceration and, in 10 per cent of patients, leads to death.

The treatment is called faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), where bacteria is extracted from stools donated by healthy donors and transplanted into the colon of the patient.

The success rate is very high, at over 90 per cent, but the availability of the treatment is extremely limited. James set up a community interest company called EuroBiotix CIC with the aim of creating a stool bank from where screened safe FMT treatments could be provided to physicians within Scotland initially, but eventually the whole of the UK and Europe.

He has taken a sabbatical from his medical degree to take the role of CEO of the company and drive his idea forward.

Chris Hughes, 21, Dundee

Chris is the founder and CEO of Estendio, a company who aim to create equal opportunities for disabled students and workers through a range of innovative products.

Having suffered dyslexia all his life, Chris found it extremely difficult to deliver presentations during his studies at Strathclyde University and he wanted to address this issue for others with learning difficulties. His product Present Pal is the first event presentation app to meet the needs of dyslexic presenters by providing them with information in the form of a script.

Chris took his first-hand experience and developed Present Pal with support from Strathclyde University’s Enterprise Team as part of their Rising Star Programme, securing £200,000 of funding.

 

Diversity Sponsored by Standard Life

Scotland has a wide range of cultures that help make it a diverse and exciting place to live. This award recognises young people who raise awareness of culture or speak out against inequalities in their community.

Bernadette Williamson, 21, Balloch

As a young gypsy/traveller, Bernadette was bullied at school because of her ethnicity and felt forced to cut short her education. Fuelled by a passion for helping other young people in her community, she joined Article 12 in Scotland, a network who promote youth rights. As a member of the Young Gypsy/Travellers Lives (YGTL) project, Bernadette has spent the past five years raising awareness of the rights of the travelling community.

She has consulted on the Human Rights Act being replaced by a Bill of Rights in London and made a presentation to academics about the rights of young gypsy/traveller women from across Scotland as part of a Children’s Rights seminar. Her presentation has now been made into a learning guide for projects across Europe. Bernadette has also co-delivered workshops across the UK ensuring the voices of young people from her community are being represented at UN level.

It’s impossible to estimate how many young people’s lives have been transformed and enhanced, not only here in Scotland but around the world, by Bernadette’s dedication.

Hafsa Saddiq, 17, Glasgow

In 2014, Police Scotland launched a pilot programme called the Police Scotland Youth Volunteers (PSYV) to help strengthen the relationship between the police and young people. From day one, it became obvious Hafsa was going to play a key role as she was the one who broke the ice and was always the first to engage with the public.

From volunteering at the Commonwealth Games to delivering pedestrian safety advice to elderly residents in her local area, Hafsa gives everything she does her all. Last year, she became the first PSYV Glasgow Head Youth Volunteer and consulted with Police Scotland on their plans to introduce a hijab as part of their uniform. The hijab has now been introduced by the Chief Constable.

Hafsa’s work was also showcased at a recent Police Scotland event in front of the Chief Constable, Lord Advocate and Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

Kaelin Farnish, 18, St Boswells, Melrose

The teenager is an inspiration through their role as a gender equality campaigner. In December 2016, Kaelin took the brave decision to share their non-binary status with others at school and changed their name to reflect this. This was no easy task in the rural Scottish Borders.

At school, Kaelin fundraised for a LGBT+ homeless shelter in Edinburgh, shaving their head and raising £150. But it is through Kaelin’s campaigning for gender equality that they have made their name. Kaelin could not open a bank account as it meant providing having to state gender as either male or female.

Instead of accepting the situation, Kaelin decided to bring this to the attention of the national media and appeared in BuzzFeed UK, initially in April 2016, to highlight the issue.

Due to Kaelin’s direct action, Metro, a national UK bank, announced they would be the first to welcome non-binary customers and change their systems to reflect this. Kaelin’s drive and determination for equality and fairness has led to positive change which will benefit other in a similar situation.

 

Excellence in Education Sponsored by the University of St Andrews

An award for a young person who has overcome adversity or disadvantage to excel at school, college or university. They may have overcome ill-health, dealt with being in care, coped with being a carer or have shown exceptional dedication and enthusiasm, despite their challenges.

Ghazale Tamizi, 18, Galashiels

The teenager and her family came to Scotland from the Tehran province of Iran in 2015 and could not speak a word of English. Two years on and Ghazale is studying for Highers in Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Advanced Maths, Art and English as a second language at Galashiels Academy.

Not only that, but the schoolgirl has been offered an unconditional place studying accountancy and finance at the prestigious University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Ghazale spends all her spare time hitting the books and perfecting her English to ensure she is ready for the next stage of her educational adventure. 

Ranchao  Ou, 20, Aberdeen

When he first came to the UK, Ranchao and his mother experienced severe domestic abuse, eventually forcing them to seek refuge in Scotland. Despite being homeless in a new city with English as his second language, Ranchao’s determination to better himself and his enthusiasm for life meant he threw himself into education.

His passion for entrepreneurship and social consciousness shone through when he became a finalist in the Young Scot Venture Jam project, designing an app to create a rewards system for recycling. After studying English, he went on to sit Highers at college, where he achieved A grades in maths, physics and Chinese studies and a B in chemistry.

Not content with speaking three languages, he is teaching himself Japanese, all the while caring for his mother as a translator and offering huge amounts of emotional support.

Unable to afford to go to university, Ranchao has waited to be classed as a home student in order to be eligible for funding and he now has conditional offers for the universities of Strathclyde, St Andrews and Edinburgh. 

Liam Murray, 23, Glasgow

Liam encountered significant challenges, including homelessness and being in foster care, when he was growing up. Understandably, he struggled to focus in school.

He started secondary education with the reading and writing skill levels of a primary three pupil, but after being taken under the wing of an MCR Pathways mentor, whose job it is to support care-experienced young people, the youngster began to blossom.

Liam worked incredibly hard throughout his secondary school years, achieving Highers and qualifications with the support of his mentor. After attending City of Glasgow College to study an HNC in architectural conservation, Liam headed to Glasgow Caledonian University and graduated in 2016 with a 2:1 BSC honours degree in building surveying. He’s now employed at City Property Glasgow, City Building and is working his way towards his Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Assessment of Professional Competence. Liam is now an MCR rated volunteer mentor himself, providing another young person with the vital support he desperately needed at the same age.

 

Unsung Hero Sponsored by Solace Scotland

This award recognises someone who goes the extra mile every day but never asks for any recognition or reward, someone who has overcome difficult circumstances or risen to a challenge and achieved something in the face of adversity.

Lee Welsh, 12, Larbert, Falkirk

Last year, the brave mini-boxing champ battled back from a health diagnosis that would have floored grown fighters. In January 2016, the schoolboy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – an aggressive form of cancer. He had to start intensive chemotherapy. Lee, who is a member of Jonesy’s Boxing Club in Plean and has just become Intermediate Scottish School Boy Champion, spent weeks in hospital not knowing if the treatment would work.

While he was ill, numerous sports stars, including Billy Joe Saunders, Mark Warburton, Jason Holt and Andy Halliday, got in touch and Carl Frampton dedicated his win against Scott Quigg to Lee. During his time in hospital, he met fellow cancer patients – in particular four-year-old Millie McColl from Airth, whose family are trying to raise £150,000 for treatment in America.

Wanting to help her, Lee auctioned the memorabilia he had been given by his sporting heroes and last June, just three weeks after he was given the all-clear, he completed the Mini Mudder obstacle challenge and raised more than £4000 for Millie. Lee is now back at school and planning his next fundraising enterprise.

Kayleigh Haggo, 18, Maybole, South Ayrshire

The teenager, who has a form of cerebral palsy, has established herself as a sports superstar after winning three golds in the European Paralympic Youth Games, setting 13 world records and four national age group records in swimming, race running and club throw sports.

But what many people don’t know about is the impact Kayleigh is having on her Ayrshire community. The teenager, who is busy training for the Paralympic games in Tokyo 2020, is an Active Schools volunteer and helps out at her local primary school, providing multi-sports sessions. And on top of all that, she’s studying for an HNC in sports coaching at college. The talented swimmer has overcome many obstacles but her outlook on life has remained positive and she continues to inspire young people to follow their dreams, no matter how bumpy the road.

Josh Hardwick, 17, Muirhouse, Edinburgh

The teenager is the leader of a group of volunteers who set up a community shop in Muirhouse, an area of Edinburgh with high social-economic deprivation. As well as providing cheaper food in the shop, Josh also helps run the food bank and the community hub which operate out of the same space.

His charming and mannerly personality means he is great at dealing with residents from all walks of life, including those with drug and alcohol issues. Last month, Josh attended a meeting with Muirhouse Link Up, Save a Life Scotland and TRIM to discuss and arrange a mass CPR week across the community.