Having the confidence to be myself and advocate for young people

“You can do this” | “Brave” | “Just breathe” | “You are amazing”

These are just some of the quotes I have written at the top of my daily planner, before planning the day ahead. 

Winning the Festival of Learning award in 2019 has been great! Being the youngest winner has given me the confidence to be myself and to support and advocate for the young people in our society.

Growing up can be hard for some people: you’ve got things such as relationships, bullying and social media that can make someone feel like they have to look a certain way, live a certain lifestyle and to fit in with everyone else, all the way to the young people who don’t have a secure support network, and are worried about their finances or even having a roof over their head.

Being taken into care in my late teens was a challenge. One of the biggest things I struggled with was not being listened to, and inevitably, this knocked my confidence. But it also made me think about the other people who may be going through the same experiences.

On leaving care, I decided to apply for a role at Childline – a charity I had contacted quite often in the past for support whilst moving from pillar to post; they were also very supportive with listening to the traumatic experiences I had endured before I was placed in care. Although I didn’t get it the first-time round, I can recall the manager telling me that she was very proud of me, but it wasn’t the right time. I reapplied the following year and got the role as a volunteer Childline counsellor. It is definitely my biggest achievement to date! 

So really, working at Childline is just a rewarding way of giving back, as well as supporting other young people who are going through what I have been through.

I have always been very motivated to try new things and see where they would lead me. I found an opportunity to get involved with the NSPCC’s youth advisory board. I made it through the application process and was chosen to take part in the decision making on how the NSPCC could be improved. There was one inquiry in particular that I was very proud to be a part of; the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. This involved bringing forward, exploring ideas and proposing recommendations on how public authorities such as the police and mental health workers can improve their responses and support for young people who have experienced sexual abuse. 

I have also taken part in the Leicestershire Virtual School conference where a few young people including myself, spoke about our school experiences, discussing ways students can be supported to reach their potential and improve outcomes, especially with the stress of exams and mental health. 

The Festival of Learning award has given me the self-belief that I need to empower other young people facing challenges, encouraging them to speak up and recognise the power that they have, especially when a lot of decisions are already being made for them. I am very much looking forward to a future where I can help make a difference.

Diana Omokore, Festival of Learning 2019 Outstanding Individual Learner Award winner