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Published 02 December 2015

Michael McKernan (front, centre) with (L-R) Vale of Leven Academy headteacher Catriona Robertson; Council youth worker Janice O’Connor; and Councillor Tommy Rainey.

A West Dunbartonshire teenager who is active in a Council-run youth group has been selected as a national representative.

Michael McKernan, 17, from Balloch has been named an #iwill ambassador under a UK-wide campaign to promote social action among 10 to 20-year-olds.

The scheme, which is coordinated by the charity Step Up To Serve, saw hundreds of young people from across the UK nominated. Michael was chosen as one of just 50 representatives for 2015 ‒ only six of whom are from Scotland.

Michael, who attends Vale of Leven Academy, was nominated for the role by Council youth worker Janice O’Connor, who helps run West Dunbartonshire Youth Alliance Peer Education Group under her role as an Early Intervention Officer.

Michael has been involved with the Youth Alliance since 2013, and just a year after joining became one of 20 young people from across West Dunbartonshire on the Peer Education Group.

The programme sees its young members educate others their own age about issues that affect their age group and community. In just three years it has seen Michael deliver community safety workshops to more than 3,500 Primary 7 pupils on topics including knife crime, road and internet safety, and first aid.

Michael and Janice recently travelled to London to attend the #iwill campaign’s second anniversary event, compeered by ITV’s Susanna Reid, where Michael was congratulated on his success by Prince Charles. His role will now see him act as an advocate for the benefits of youth social action, and help the #iwill campaign in its goal to get an extra 1.5 million young people involved in social action by 2020.

 Michael said: “I feel quite proud. It felt like a ‘well done’ for the Peer Education Group even if I didn’t get picked, which I was happy with; but I was really happy to find out I had been chosen.

“There are so many issues affecting young people now and there is only so help they can be given, so we need to help each other. We have been doing so much already and this takes it to another level.”

Councillor Kath Ryall, Convener of West Dunbartonshire Council’s Corporate Services Committee, said: “As a Council we are dedicated to improving life chances for children and young people. Since its inception the Youth Alliance has helped us deliver on that ambition through such innovative means as organising DJ nights to steer youngsters away from the streets, and collecting feedback from young people so the Council can meet their needs.

“It is a fantastic project, and being an #iwill ambassador is an amazing way for Michael to further his youth work on a national platform.”

Councillor Tommy Rainey, Vice-Convener of the committee, added: “Michael is a very civic-minded young man who has shown impressive initiative and drive to make a difference. It is fantastic to see him rewarded with such a prestigious national role.”

Pictured: Michael McKernan (front, centre) with (L-R) Vale of Leven Academy headteacher Catriona Robertson; Council youth worker Janice O’Connor; and Councillor Tommy Rainey.