Five winners of the Ambition AXA Awards were announced at a gala ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice last night, and despite the competition running nationwide, the winners are all from Sheffield, Leeds, Preston and Middlesbrough.
Five winners in Enterprise, The Arts, Science, Sport and Community were announced at the gala ceremony on 30th November, which was hosted by Carol Vorderman and presented by celebrity judges in each category including businesswoman Karren Brady, musician Alex James and Gadget Show presenter Jason Bradbury. Each of the winners will now receive a bespoke development prize worth up to £40,000 to help them reach the next stage in the achievement of their ambitions. (Total prize fund of £200,000).
The exceptional winners comprise a budding filmmaker from Leeds, a future Olympics badminton player from Sheffield, a tireless community fundraiser from Middlesbrough, an entrepreneur already doing well in his own business from Sheffield and a budding Scientist who has designed a rocket product, from Preston.
The awards were launched in March with the very deliberate aim of rewarding extreme talent and ambition in young people aged between 11 and 18 who have already excelled in their chosen field. From thousands of entries, the most impressive were shortlisted to five per category, which were then put to the public vote. The overall winner was selected from the top three from each category after the public vote by a prestigious panel of judges, chaired by former Head teacher, Sir Alan Steer.
Sir Alan said: "Sometimes far too much is made of the small minority of young people who take opportunities to cause trouble, but who seem to be spoken of as if they are the majority. What we should be concentrating on is celebrating the majority of young people who quietly go about doing remarkable things. That was the point of the Ambition AXA Awards: to shout about their achievements and to celebrate what young people can do - and give them the chance to do so."
The winners are:
Alexander Gwynne, 18, from Woodseats in Sheffield impressed the judges by having already started up a business in designing paper toys, which comprise a flat net design that people can print and cut out, then glue together to build a 3D designer model. His business has landed him a book deal and gained him a world-wide reputation in his chosen field.
Alexander beat two other finalists in the Enterprise category and along with Sir Alan Steer, he was selected by; Karren Brady, Vice Chairman of West Ham United; Catherine Marchant, Interim CEO of Young Enterprise and Steve Hardy, Chief Executive AXA Personal Lines.
Natalie Chan-Lam, 15, from Sheffield impressed the judges with her significant achievements in badminton. She began playing at the age of 9 and among her many accolades she has won the National singles title in the under 11s, under 13s and under 15s categories and was also the under 15s Home Counties Quadrangular Champion.
Natalie was selected in a tight category by Amy Williams, Olympic gold medallist; Marc Woods, Paralympian and board member of The Youth Sport Trust; Mike Kellard, Chief Executive AXA Wealth, along with Chairman Sir Alan Steer.
Alfie Barker, 15, from Leeds impressed the judges because of his successes at such a young age in film making. He has been awarded four UK National Film Awards including The National Young Filmmaker Award 2011 and the Advisor's Choice for Emerging Talent at the CO-OP Film Festival 2011.
Alfie was selected by Alex James, musician; Laura Gander-Howe, Director, Learning & Skills Strategy at The Arts Council England; Amanda Blanc, Chief Executive AXA Commercial Lines and Sir Alan Steer.
Hannah Larkin, 15, from Coulby Newham in Middlesbrough impressed the judges with the care and consideration that she has displayed from a young age and her constant willingness to help other people. Her many projects have included fund raising for cancer research and volunteering at her local care home.
Along with Sir Alan Steer, Hannah was selected by Camila Batmanghelidjh, Founder of Kids Company; Lucy de Groot, CEO of Community Service Volunteers and Keith Gibbs, Chief Executive AXA PPP healthcare.
Connah Johnson, 17, from Walton Le Dale in Preston impressed the judges with his passion and achievements in Science and engineering. He has already designed, developed and created a rocket product for which he received an Individual Innovation Award at the National UKAYRoc Competition.
Connah was selected by Jason Bradbury, Presenter of The Gadget Show; Annette Smith, CEO of The Association of Science Education; Paul Evans, Group Chief Executive AXA UK and head teacher and Chairman of the Judges, Sir Alan Steer.
It was not only the winners that were represented by the north. Out of fifteen finalists who made it through the public vote, four were from Sheffield, six in total were from Yorkshire, two were from the north east and two were from Lancashire. The total geographical breakdown of finalists was eleven from the north and four from the south (73 per cent vs. 27 per cent respectively).