March has been an incredible month, offering me several opportunities to raise the profile of the issues that are important to me and harness the power of youth voice to make positive change for the future, writes Jemima Browning.
Firstly, I was invited to deliver a speech alongside Rachael MacKenzie, World Thai-Boxing Champion and two students with disabilities, at the Coaches Academy Conference at Fulford School York on March 22. I was pleased to address the best young leaders and coaches in North Yorkshire who were working with some of the most qualified and experienced in the field to improve their skills. This opportunity arose after the response to my speech at the Youth Sport Trust Annual Conference. I hope I managed to show my passion and further inspire the audience of young coaches, teachers and leaders in sporting excellence.
Secondly, my family and I attended the Disability Sport Yorkshire Annual Dinner at Elland Road on Friday March 24. Disability Sport Yorkshire is an organisation which shares my passion to address the inequality in access to sport for disabled people across our region. It aims to improve the well-being of people with disability through physical activity, regularly taking part in sport and becoming sporting champions.
The dinner celebrated 24 years of achievement in disability sport in Yorkshire. There were nominations for 14 awards recognising success at the Rio Paralympics, for schools and clubs for county and regional performance and for volunteers, coaches, local authorities. The awards acknowledged the hard work and dedication happening across the region.
The room was filled with guests and award nominees from across Yorkshire, there was a magical feel. Hannah Cockcroft was awarded Yorkshire Paralympian which was really special. I was so pleased that Emily Holder, a 12-year-old girl who I have known since primary school, was awarded Young Achiever of the Year for her swimming success. On a personal level, I was delighted and very surprised to be awarded the President’s Award for Service to Sport.
Lastly, and possibly most excitingly, on March 30 a small group from Tadcaster Grammar School had the most amazing chance to attend an event at the House of Lords. My brother Will, Teaching Assistant Deborah Clark, our Headteacher Martyn Sibley and I made the trip to London to join a party from Special Olympics Play Unified to promote and celebrate inclusion through sport.
The event was held in the Cholmondeley Room and Terrace overlooking the Thames. The sun shone and the mood was very uplifting. I was delighted to see that so many peers and VIPs had taken the trouble to come and hear what we had to say.
Will, supported by Mrs Clark, and I made a speech following the founder of Youth Sports Trust Baroness Sue Campbell’s introduction to share our experiences and the hugely positive effect working with Play Unified is having on our own communities. I am really proud of Will as he participated in the delivery of the speech and spoke well demonstrating to the audience exactly what inclusion means and the positive effects it can have both inside and outside the sporting world. There followed speeches from the CEO of Youth Sport Trust and Young Leaders which were both inspiring and motivating.
We had the opportunity to meet many of the influential guests during the reception including the Minister for Education and the Minister for Disability. David Evangelista, President and Managing Director of the Special Olympics Europe Eurasia, introduced himself which was great as Will and I are on the Inclusive Youth Activation Committee for this region.
I really hope that this event will fuel and drive the process of real change across the country, breaking down barriers to inclusion and increasing acceptance of all young people as individuals and not defined by their disability.