Emmie in her own words
If we go back to 2013, I was a quiet wee 15 year old who dreamed of being a photographer, which is hard to believe now as I never stop talking. One January morning, I was asked to come along to an engagement event run by the Moray Youth Council. All they needed to say was ‘you can take the day off of school and get a Mcdonalds at the end’ and I was on the back of that mini bus. Prior to this, my knowledge of politics was what I needed to pass my intermediate 2 modern studies course. At this point I couldn’t even tell you what a youth worker was. Nevertheless, I went along. Who knew that that event would change my life?
For the first time in my life, I felt listened to. I got asked about things that I cared about and I got to give my opinion on what it's like to live in Moray. It felt so empowering that I knew it couldn't be the end. So I became Emmie Main, Youth Councillor for Buckie.
At my first few meetings, I didn’t say much and just got used to the idea of being in the group but one night I went home and an idea hit me. If you think back to the end of 2013 and the politics of Scotland, you may remember that we had a big event coming up. The 2014 independence referendum. I had just turned 16, meaning I had a vote in the referendum. I thought ‘oh my goodness, I can vote and I have no idea how to vote, surely I’m not the only one’.
My friends and I struggled with choosing between the 3 lunch choices at school, let alone on the constitutional future of our country. Lightbulb moment. Lets hold a mock independence referendum here in Moray.
So I pitched the idea and we got to work. I took the lead, and the real journey began. I began to work closely with the local youth worker at my school, Barbara. Bubbly, fun and a real ray of sunshine. I really enjoyed doing things locally. We got things planned quick and worked well as a team. What a coincidence that Barbara was also the Youth Achievement Award worker for Moray.
Shortly after I pitched the idea, I was elected chair and Barbara had an idea. Why not turn this work into a Youth Achievement Award? It would be fab she said. She told me all about the awards and I thought, aye Ill give it a bash, CV and all that. We started at silver but a few weeks in, as I was walking by the office, I heard her shout my name.
Nearly an hour later (and thankfully I was on a free period), we had decided I was going to give the Platinum Award a bash and we were all fired up and excited to go. As the months went on, I took on more responsibility and as well as Chair of the youth council, I became a mentor to others. It became my job to help everyone else to be the best that they could be in their youth councillor role, by supporting them to organise the referendum in their school. I also focused my award more widely on engaging young people in the area in the democratic process.
On 18th June 2014, all 8 Moray Council schools came together, debated and voted in a mock referendum. An idea that I had had sitting with my granny over a plate of mince and tatties. Twitter and Facebook were full of discussion. Good discussion, political discussion. The youth council had did it and I’d never felt so proud. Over the next few months, I focused my award on mentoring young people within the youth council and enjoyed it a lot.
I continued the award all through my sixth year, did training such as youth worker train, first aid and risk assessment training and became a regular youth work volunteer with the council. By the time I came to the end of my sixth year, I was nearly done my Award and I was proud. I promised myself I would finish it when I could but I was away to start my degree in politics at University of Glasgow.
The week before I left, my life was sent into turmoil. I went through a period of serious emotional trauma, something I had never experienced before. I went from being the loud and confident young woman the Award had helped me become to a scared, depressed 17 year old, in a city she didn’t know, with people who didn’t care and feelings she couldn’t cope with.
I went home nearly every weekend and would visit the youth workers but I couldn’t bring myself to look at my award. All the fire I had had before was gone. I quit uni and moved home, very unsure of my next step.
If it weren’t for the youth workers in Buckie, I wouldn’t be where I am now. They got me counselling and referred me to my doctor. They allowed me to come and volunteer and get back into youth work. Slowly I got better and I began to try my award again.
Soon, I felt the enjoyment I had felt better. As I looked through the pages, I could see what I had achieved and how far I had come. I owed it to myself to continue and to complete it. In June this year, I did.
At the August moderation, I became the proud owner of a Platinum Youth Achievement Award and that means more to me than any of the A, B, 1s, 2s on my exam certificate. Since I moved home, I became the msyp for moray and took a leading role in the year of young people interim planning group. I’ve hosted events with 200 people at them, spoke with government ministers and shared a stage with the deputy first minster.
And it all started with my award. The skills and experiences that I gained from my platinum have got me to where I am today, along with a little help from many people in youth work. In 4 years time, I hope to graduate with an honours degree in com ed from edi uni, so I can give back.