These awards celebrate individuals who inspire others through their work, through their commitment to helping others, through their infectious personalities and adversity.
This is a huge achievement for Jess and well-deserved recognition of her work with young people in the local community and nationally. We wish her the best of luck for the awards in September! Please see below a statement from Jess regarding her experiences leading up to this nomination. Well done Jess!
'Hi, my name is Jess Griffiths. Youth Voice has played a massive role in my life over the last 5 years in many ways. My roles over the years have changed quite a lot. I have been a Young Leader, Young Facilitator, and recently been employed as an Early Help Support worker. I am also a volunteer youth worker at the Kent Youth County Council which means I support young people in getting their voices heard exactly the place where I started my youth journey.
However, this time 5 years ago I would never imagine myself being in this great position now. I started my youth voice journey 5 years ago at the age of 15, I was very shy and didn’t engage with much. I was struggling at school and my GCSEs were coming up and I knew I needed to find something positive to put my energy into. My social skills teacher showed me a poster about the Kent Youth County Council. I wasn’t too sure but gave the elections ago. I was lucky enough to be elected as a member of the Shepway District. I met the staff and the amazing young people! They helped me to access the youth council by providing me with the time and the support to get me through a traumatic time in my life, but they didn't let me go through it alone, I always knew there was someone for me to talk to.
I’m a Young Carer, and at the time school was a hassle for me, there were just lots going on, and I didn’t have time for it. I had other priorities and was struggling to manage. I was told I was never going to achieve anything so why bother? The HeadStart programme (SpeakOut) has been really important to me. It made me feel part of something. It was like a dysfunctional family where we all play our parts! I was ‘Aunty Jess’ and a lot of the other members came to me to talk about their problems. I have been able to use my own experiences and struggles with mental health, to help others. I have proved everyone wrong despite my mental health problems and my additional needs. I felt like I was making a difference to my community.
In 2017 I became a Young Leader within HeadStart and a Senior Member at the Shepway Youth Hub which gave me the opportunity to mentor and support young people to further help with the projects I attended.
I was involved in designing coproduction training and delivered this to a group of senior managers and Directors within Kent County Council. Now we are rolling it out to staff across the county. Our aim was that young people will make a difference in promoting youth voice and engagement. New opportunities for young people have come out of this and more is now happening in KCC to ensure the voice of young people is taken into account in decision making, not just with youth services. I felt like I had really made a difference to services in my county and that young people were finally making it known that they have voices too.
A massive highlight for me must be speaking in Parliament about Co-Production and my HeadStart journey and why it's so important to young people have access to projects such as HeadStart and Kent Youth County Council. It was great to get across to important decision-makers how passionate I am about the service and the work, it does with young people like it has done for me.
I was lucky enough last march to be on the Big Conversation panel it was an amazing way to end my youth voice journey and getting to answer the questions that young people want to be answered regarding mental health, resilience, and other important topics to them.
Working with young people isn't just a job to me it's a commitment that I have made to support young people so they don't have to go through the trauma that I went through. To know that young people feel valued and have a voice means I have done my job and that means more than can be put into words!
Thank you for nominating me and now the support getting votes I can never put into words what it means so THANK YOU!'