A home-schooled teenager who avoids isolation by volunteering extensively in the community is in a competition that hails the ‘giving to others’ of Bedfordshire young people.
Jasmin Khanom, of Maple Road West, Luton, volunteers with several charities, is working to bring the different communities in Luton together and wants the youth council reformed.
Now the 16-year-old has been nominated for the Atlas Young People of the Year awards or ‘YOPEYs’ – Oscars for young people who ‘give to others’.
The county-wide contest has over £1000 to be won by young people who ‘give to others’.
There will be at least two Beds Young People of the Year. A senior YOPEY, aged 17-25, winning £500, and a junior YOPEY, aged 10-16, winning £300. Either prize can be won by an individual or group and the winners have to invest most of their winnings in their good cause but can keep £100 to treat themselves. There will also be several £100 runners-up prizes.
YOPEY is open to young people aged from 10 to 25, who should live, work or study in Bedfordshire. Typical entries include fundraisers, young carers, club leaders, volunteers on projects at home or abroad and young leaders who pass on academic or sporting skills.
Jasmin was nominated by her mother, Mahmuda Khanom. Mahmuda said: “I know that I would never have achieved as much as Jasmin has at her age.
“Being a hijab-wearing Muslim girl, Jasmin has had to face a few challenges and tackle against stereotypes, but she fought through and stood strong.
“Jasmin is full of life, always jumping to new opportunities, and helping others as much as she can. If she sees someone carrying heavy bags in the street, she’ll run to help them.”
Jasmin joined the fire cadets three years ago when a Luton unit was set up.
Kayleigh Jean, a youth officer with Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Jasmin struck me as being intellectual, well-rounded and incredibly polite. I was surprised to find out she was home-schooled and that all of her attributes have been self-taught and developed through her own experiences which she and her mum have created – a credit to them both.
“Jasmin was initially very quiet within our unit but it did not take long for her to gain the trust, respect and friendship of her peers, all from varying backgrounds. She is now one of the most popular cadets. This is due to her sheer determination to get things right and also helping others.”
Kim Greig, of Luton Council of Faith’s Near Neighbours programme, said: “Near Neighbours works across faiths and cultures. Jasmin has supported a new initiative called Hate Crime Ambassadors.”
This is where Jasmin and other older young people teach children to understand what hate crime is and how to prevent it.
Through the multi-faith council Jasmin has also volunteered at events such as Luton Peace Walk and Robin Hood’s Feast.
“Jasmine is a hands-on person and will adapt to any given situation with great patience. She is one of the most committed and humble young people I know and will do anything she can to help in any given opportunity. She is a truly unique young lady.”
Jasmine is now leading a campaign to resurrect Luton’s Youth Council after it was axed in public sector cuts.
She said: “I voiced my concerns to friends and community figures. This is something that needs to change as right now Luton doesn’t have a youth-led organisation where young people can be involved with the democratic process of our town.”
A meeting was held at the town hall and it was agreed to set up a youth board with representatives from different schools and youth organisations. Jasmine hopes this will be up and running by the end of this year.
Jasmine has taken part in three ‘Try a Hijab’ events. “So many people thanked us for coming out, talking and trying to break stereotypes about Muslims. What really made me smile is that despite our colours, races, culture, ethnic backgrounds and religions, we all were able to come together in harmony.”
She lost count of how many women and girls tried on the hijabs.
YOPEY has been praised by national leaders including former prime ministers and the new Education Secretary who said YOPEY seeks out ‘ordinary’ young people who contribute “something extraordinary to their communities”.
Justine Greening MP said: “The awards provide an inspiration for other young people – and for adults – that even in difficult circumstances young people can find ways to help others and change the world around them.”
YOPEY was founded by former national newspaper journalist Tony Gearing, who said: “There are many young people in Bedfordshire doing wonderful things for others. It’s just that they live in the shadow of a well-publicised anti-social minority.
“We need to give young people the respect they deserve and set up the best as positive role models for others to copy rather than focusing on the small number who appear in the press for negative reasons.”
About this entry, Tony said: “Jasmin is clearly a great joiner of organisations and events bring the Bedfordshire community together. It is fantastic to see she is beginning to lead her own initiatives..”
As well as Atlas Converting Equipment, which manufactures wrapping equipment for various industries, this year’s Beds YOPEY is sponsored by Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service and recruitment company Guidant Group.
The YOPEY charity has also received grants from Bedfordshire & Luton Community Foundation, the Gale Family Trust and Wixamtree.
Schools, youth organisations, churches and charities across Beds are being urged to nominate their young people. If their nominee wins, they can receive the major share of the prize money. Family and friends can also nominate but they cannot win prize money. Young people can even nominate themselves.
> Do you know somebody who deserves the title Young Person of the Year? To nominate logon to yopey.org or write, enclosing a stamped-addressed-envelope, to YOPEY, Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road, Stradishall, Newmarket CB8 8YN for a paper entry form. Entries close on July 31.