Community Winner 16-19 Laura-Liz Partoon
Laura-Liz Partoon has been involved in several community volunteering projects whilst being hard at work as a student; on average, she manages 100-200 hours of volunteering per month, an intimidating feat. The list of voluntary ventures itself she has either fronted or been involved in since the age of 13 is impressive and vast, yet each project holds a special place in Laura-Liz’s heart. Her bravery and her dedication to her projects during her school and university years make her a genuinely worthy winner of the Young Achievers 16-19 Community Award.
Her first project came about during her school years, when she was involved in the national Channel 4 campaign ‘Battlefront, Series 1’. Followed by a documentary film crew, she began her ‘Stresses and Strains of School’ project, aiming to promote counselling services available to school-age youths for issues regarding the stresses that school life can inevitably entail. She set up ‘chillaxation’ classes to promote relaxation techniques, and trained volunteers around schools in the Midlands methods of coping with school stresses such as exam pressure. Thanks to her rousing achievements, Laura-Liz attracted the attention of the government, and was given the opportunity to speak in the House of Commons and the House of Lords concerning mental health issues in school-age youths. She has also reported to the United Nations in Geneva through her involvement in the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), a three year long project designed to investigate children’s rights in England. She also campaigned to ensure that mental health in young people was taken seriously by addressing senior members of the Department for Schools, Children and Families, directly impacting upon the Mental Health Act for young people. Her hard work has already been rightfully recognised, and in December 2008 Laura-Liz was awarded the Princess Diana Memorial Award for ‘improving and inspiring the lives of others’.
As a university student, Laura-Liz has only increased in her voluntary endeavours. She spearheaded another campaign, this time the ‘Inclusive Individuals’, a society in which she teaches fellow students American and British Sign Language, Braille and pictorial communication. Now an accredited programme at her university, ‘Inclusive Individuals’ was such a great success that it sparked widespread interest, with at least three other universities set to trial the project. Her ‘Inclusive Individuals’ ventures, and indeed her bravery in her own life, also helped her to successfully acquire the role of Disability Officer at her university, a remarkable achievement in itself. Within this role, she works with the Student Services staff, security, the Student Union and students themselves in order to ensure the university is as disabled-friendly as possible.
Sarah Corrigan of Timebank, Laura-Liz’s nominator, speaks very highly of Laura-Liz when relating her reasons as to her nomination: “Laura-Liz is an exceptional young person who never ceases to amaze with her commitment and passion for the causes she believes in. She is incredibly busy with all her voluntary activities but always finds the time to offer support to other young people to help them deliver their own projects. She is a true inspiration to all.”