Britain honours its teen heroes

New awards celebrates the achievements of the UK's young people
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The Independent Online

Britain's teenagers are to get a boost from a government plan to end misconceptions of young people as knife-wielding hoodies interested only in underage sex and drinking.

"There's a real cross-government offensive. We're trying to come together to get a positive message about teenagers out there," said Tim Loughton, the children's minister. "The last government was unintentionally complicit in giving a damaging impression of youth culture."

The Government is tapping into a growing sense that the way the nation views its young people needs to change. Next Sunday in London the first BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards will be held, to celebrate the achievements of British teenagers who make a difference to their communities, have overcome difficulties in an inspirational way, or display entrepreneurial talent. The winners will be presented with glass statues on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo, alongside music stars including Katy Perry and JLS, who are also up for awards. The show will be broadcast on Radio 1, and a recording will be shown on BBC3 later this month.

In the past 10 years, the rate of under-18s getting pregnant has fallen by 13.3 per cent; youth reoffending rates fell last year; and a recent study has found that in 2009 the number of teenage killings dropped by 30 per cent.

The latest figures from Volunteering England show that young people are also keen volunteers. Forty-one per cent of 16- to 25-year-olds took part in formal volunteering last year, which compares favourably with the national average of 40 per cent.

Here, The Independent on Sunday looks at some of the teenagers whose efforts for others have earned them a place on the Teen Awards shortlist.

Josh Worley, 14, Norfolk

Teen Community Hero Award nominee

The schoolboy founded his own radio station after raising nearly £50,000. The station is run by young people and helps teens – particularly the unemployed and those in care – to gain experience working in radio. "If teenagers aren't seen as hoodies attacking people, they are perfect teens in magazines. Young people who want to make a difference in their communities are forgotten because it is seen as boring."

Rhys Morgan, 15, Cardiff

Teen Hero Award nominee

After being diagnosed with Crohn's disease a few months ago, Rhys discovered that a "drug" called Miracle Mineral Solution with dangerous side effects was being offered to sufferers. His blog on the subject prompted an FSA investigation and warning over the substance.

"My primary concern was stopping vulnerable people being exposed to this. Some types of quackery don't hurt people, but this does. I really want to be a doctor. I'm so interested in medicine."

Lauren Gander, 12, Sussex

Teen Community Hero Award nominee

Proving wrong the doctors who said she would never walk, spina bifida sufferer Lauren is a tireless fundraiser, completing runs, walks and night treks for charity.

"Now that I can walk, I thought, 'I'm not going to sit on my bottom and not do anything!' My ambition is to be a dancer, but if not I'd like to be a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist in the future. I like to help people."

Sarah Phillips, 17, London

Teen Hero Award nominee

On the night her mother died of cervical cancer, Sarah recorded a video of herself singing Paolo Nutini's "Autumn" and uploaded it on to YouTube. It had 418,000 hits and helped to raise donations of more than £430,000 for research into cervical cancer.

"I probably grew up a year in the month in which my mum had a brain haemorrhage. It does make you more mature. Trivial things don't really bother you as much, and you focus on what's important."

Fidel Frimpong, 17, Kent

Teen Entrepreneur Award Nominee

Fidel attracted a following on the social networking site Bebo after posting inspirational Christian messages. He decided to capitalise on this and turned it into a profitable business selling Christian-themed clothing, before expanding into non-religious slogans.

"I wanted to use hoodies in a good way rather than a bad way. The idea was to set up a clothing line that was cool and meaningful. I watch things like The Apprentice and they inspire me."

Callum Fairhurst, 13, Soham, Cambridgeshire

Teen Hero Award nominee

After his elder brother died of cancer, Callum used Twitter to arrange a 1,000-mile cycle ride, which raised £11,500 for the charity Clic Sargent. "Not many people see the good side of what teenagers do, and I've seen so many young people doing amazing things. At first I wanted to raise money for Clic Sargent, but now I raise money for Help for Heroes too, as they do great things."