A Haverhill teenager whose ‘life was made hell’ by bullies has managed to turn his life around by starting up an anti-bullying group and is now in a competition that hails the achievements of young people.
Adam Olivant, 18, of Shetland Road, struggled from an early age from name calling and physical violence and he always ‘felt different’.
Now he has been nominated for the Cambridgeshire Young People of the Year or the YOPEYs Oscars for young people who give to others.
Adam qualifies for the competition because he is in education at Long Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge.
There is a top prize of £800 to be won by a young person or group of young people, aged 10-25, who help others.
Adam has struggled from bullying since junior school. He felt he had no-one to talk to so went into his shell.
“The other kids realised I was different and vulnerable so they started picking on me, name calling and even some physical bullying.
“I’m an emotional person and took it to heart. My life was made hell.”
However, over the past few years he has now started to turn the bad experience into something positive and has started mentoring for the Beat Bullying group and the Gay Straight Alliance.
Each day he leaves home at 7am to get to college, where he has lessons from 9-4pm.
Then he makes his way to Cambridge University Hospitals for 5pm and works for the pathology services until 8pm. Most nights he doesn’t get back until after 10pm.
Adam added: “I struggled because there was nothing for me and I felt isolated. I didn’t have a group to go to. I felt it was important that others didn’t struggle in the same way.”
He contacted senior management at Long Road Sixth form college, where he is studying A-levels in ICT, Computing and Maths, and was given permission to start up the support groups.
“It’s important to discuss bullying and how it makes people feel, “ he says.
“My main success was the Gay and Straight Alliance, as I wanted to fight the stigmatism of being gay, straight or bisexual.
“It’s a support mechanism so people aren’t judged because of who they are.
“Although the college already had a LGBT group, it wasn’t inclusive enough as straight people or asexual people couldn’t attend.
“But with the Gay Straight Alliance we’ve had gays, straight, lesbians and bi-sexuals turning up.”
Adam estimates he has counselled over 100 people. As well as regular meetings at college he gives up a couple of hours each weekend, plus all of St Valentine’s Day, to talk to people online about any bullying problems they may have.
“If their problem is deep seated he provides advice about where to go for further help.
Adam says: “Because of my past experiences I can relate to what people are saying. It can be hard to find the right things to say to people, but at least I have some experience.
“The groups allow people to talk about themselves in an open forum and without the teachers being there.
“Because I’m gay I know what they are going through, and it’s given me insight into what is going on.”
Adam, who is hoping to go onto college in Lincoln to study computer science, devotes whatever spare time he has to helping others.
However, he’s determined to continue with the mentoring service even when he goes to university.
“I feel sorry for people who are bullies and say nasty things because they have nothing better to do. In the end it’s made me change my life for the better, and their life has been changed for the worse.”
Eighteen-year-old Adam was nominated by Julie White, his student supervisor at Long Road.
“Adam has taken his experience of bullying at school and turned it into something very positive.
“Helping so many other young people in supporting and advising them when they are in crisis.
“This is all in his spare time.”
The young person or group that wins the YOPEYS keeps £400 and gives £400 to a good cause of their choice.
There will be a second place winner of £400, third place and junior winners of £200 each, all similarly
Typical entries include fundraisers, young carers, club leaders, volunteers on projects at home or abroad and young leaders who pass on academic or sporting skills.
YOPEY has been praised by national leaders. Prime Minister David Cameron said YOPEY entries show determination and resolve to make a difference.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “YOPEY is leading the way in recognising the contribution young people make.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said the young winners will build a better, more engaged and more civic society”.
YOPEY was founded by former national newspaper journalist Tony Gearing, who said: “There are many young people in Cambridgeshire doing wonderful things for others.
“It’s just that they live in the shadow of a well-publicised anti-social minority.
“We need to give young people the respect they deserve and set up the best
as positive role models for others to copy rather than focusing on the small number who appear in the press for negative reasons.”
About this entry, Tony said: “Adam has beaten the bullies by standing tall and proclaiming who he is. Now he is using his past experiences to help other people who may be suffering”²
As well as Cambridge Regional College this year¹s YOPEY is also sponsored by Linx, the international supplier of industrial printers based in St Ives, LifePlus of St Neots, Hutchinsons of Wisbech, G¹s of Ely, TTP Group of
Melbourn, ARM, Building Services Design, Cambridge Assessment, Kiss Communications, Stratagem IPM and Mathworks, all of Cambridge, and Peterborough Regional College.
The awards ceremony will be held at Ely Cathedral in the autumn.
Schools, youth organisations, churches and charities across Cambs are urged to nominate their young people.
If their nominee wins, they can receive half the prize money.
Family and friends can also nominate but they cannot win prize money.
Young people can even nominate themselves.
The last Suffolk YOPEY was held in 2010 but it is hoped the movement will return to Suffolk soon especially since its founder lives in Stradishall.
Do you know somebody who deserves the title Young Person of the Year? To nominate logon to yopey.org <http://yopey.org/> or write, enclosing a stamped-addressed-envelope, to YOPEY, Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road,
Stradishall, Newmarket CB8 8YN for a paper entry form.
Entries close on August 15.