Young Changemaker Award winner Eden shares her story

Inspirational Inclusive Leader Award winner Eden shared her story recently to the Department for Education’s Permanent Secretary Stakeholder Group..

Earlier this year, I was proud to win the Youth Sport Trust’s ‘Inspirational Inclusive Leader’ Award at the charity’s Youth Changemaker Awards. Since then, I’ve been sharing my story, explaining how being involved in sport including at my school, Brooklands Middle School, has affected my life and encouraging others to take part.

I know how important being physically active is for mental health and wellbeing. Last week, I had the opportunity to address the Department for Education’s Permanent Secretary Stakeholder Group, which brings together leading figures from the world of education to understand lived experiences and give advice to senior civil servants. The list of attendees was quite daunting but I was really pleased that this meeting – and all of their meetings – began with a young person telling their story.

The meeting took place during Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual campaign that encourages all of us to think about our mental health. This year, the theme of the week was Movement, to celebrate the role of regular physical activity in improving mental health, quality of life and wellbeing, as well as the benefits for physical health.

I was able to tell the group about the different sports and physical activities I have taken part in and how they have supported my mental health. My involvement with sport has included participating in the Youth Sport Trust’s Girls Active programme, which has given me the confidence and resilience to become a leader, inspire others and make sure that everyone is empowered to be active. I shared with the group how I create a safe space for all girls to come, and model that ‘if I can do it, you can do it’

I’m very grateful that my family, friends and teachers have always made an effort to include me. However, too many children don’t get opportunities to be physically active which can negatively affect their mental health. I encouraged the group to think about how we can make sure physical activity at school including PE and sport is inclusive, accessible and enjoyable, so no one misses out. This is so important at the moment, when many young people are struggling with their mental health. I shared some examples of how social media affects the way girls I know feel, particularly when it causes us to compare what we look like to others.

Earlier in the week, the Youth Sport Trust had published a new paper which showed free physical activity in schools is worth at least £4.5bn a year in wellbeing benefits. By putting physical activity at the heart of the school day we can create a happier, healthier generation of young people and make progress in tackling the wellbeing crisis children and young people face.

Whenever I talk to my friends they are really passionate about being active and how it helps them. As well as helping our wellbeing it gives us a way to develop skills, meet new people and enjoy different experiences. I’m really grateful to the group for inviting me to talk to them and I hope that hearing my story and from other young people means together we can encourage leaders to act so every child is supported to be active for 60 minutes a day.

Published on 21 May 2024