The second Stonewall Youth Awards took place in London last night. The event celebrates the impact Stonewall’s Youth Volunteers are having on combating homophobia in their local schools and communities. Over fifty people attended the event at the Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre.
Seventeen year old Rachael McMurray from Dorset was named Stonewall Young Campaigner of the Year. Rachael’s campaign focused on ideas for workshops in Dorset’s schools on tackling homophobic bullying – many of which she ran herself. She has met with senior anti-bullying figures at Dorset Local Authority and set up her own website, which provides resources for teachers in Dorset (www.itsoktobegaydorset.webs.com). Rachael has also been interviewed for Stonewall’s YouTube channel (http://bit.ly/921ReL).
Talking about how she overcame severe homophobic bullying to win the coveted award, Rachael said: ‘It feels absolutely amazing to win, words really can’t describe it. To win this award means so much to me because of what I went through. The last two years at school were the worst of my life. The homophobic bullying started with name calling such as ‘dyke’ then got worse – anti-gay posters about me were plastered around the school. Then one day I was attacked on the way home from school by a gang screaming anti-gay abuse. I stumbled into my house, bleeding, and came out to my parents. A year later I was delivering workshops and assemblies on how to tackle homophobic bullying in the same school where I suffered the abuse. Stonewall’s Youth Volunteering programme has helped me get back some confidence – and use it to make sure nobody has to go through what I did.’
Nineteen other Stonewall Youth Volunteers from across the country who run their own original campaigns in their nearby schools, colleges or local communities were also celebrated at the ceremony.
The V-funded Stonewall Youth Volunteering Programme was launched in 2008 and since then has trained 150 young people to tackle homophobic bullying in their own local communities. http://www.youngstonewall.org.uk