New Year honour for teenage campaigner

By Judith Burns
BBC News

image captionJeremiah Emmanuel, now 17, began volunteering when he was just four

A 17-year-old who founded a campaign to end youth violence after a friend was murdered, is among the youngest people on the New Year Honours list.

Jeremiah Emmanuel, who is awarded the British Empire Medal, began volunteering aged just four.

At 13 he set up One Big Community to help young people find solutions to violence in their communities.

He said the death of his friend, not far from his home in Brixton, south London, had been "a call to action".

Too many local people had been affected by stabbings and shootings, he said.

Through One Big Community he organises social media debates and live events to connect young people with decision makers in the police, schools, politics and the media.

Community inspiration

At 13 he already had almost 10 years of experience as a volunteer.

He says his mother, a youth worker, inspired him to get involved in community projects.

He had sung in hospitals as a member of a youth choir, been involved in youth politics as a member of the Youth Parliament, and by 13 was deputy young mayor of Lambeth.

Later, he also successfully pitched the idea of a youth council to Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra.

All of this work gave him lots of useful contacts.

"I just literally called people, asked them to get involved.

"Initially I wasn't clear exactly what I wanted to do - it was moulded as I went on with it."

Jeremiah, who is a colour sergeant with the Army Cadet Force, is also running a campaign to have first aid taught in all secondary schools in England after he helped save the life of another young man who was attacked with a knife in his area late at night.

He says he received a massive amount of first aid training with the cadets and used it to stop the bleeding and treat the victim for shock until the ambulance arrived.

He and the victim are working together on the first aid lessons campaign.

"These are really really important skills that young people should learn," he said.

image captionJeremiah persuaded the BBC to set up a youth council for Radio 1 and 1Xtra

Jeremiah, who is applying to university this year from St Francis Xavier 6th Form College in Balham, described the British Empire Medal, for services to young people and the community in London, as an amazing honour.

He told the BBC he had been "so shocked" when he learned of the accolade.

Bringing change

He hopes the medal will be a boost for his campaigns and encourage other young people to get involved.

"I think it's so important for young people to have a voice. We are the future and I think a lot of people forget that sometimes, especially when it comes to working on the things that affect us from politics [in] our everyday lives.

"So hopefully a 17-year-old receiving a Queen's honour can be an inspiration to other young people to wake up and say, 'Today I can bring a change in my community.'"

Almost three quarters of the awards go to people who have undertaken work in their local communities, while 10% are for work in education, including 26 head teachers.

In addition, the Rt Hon Baroness Warnock becomes a Companion of Honour for services to charity and to children with special educational needs; Helen Fraser, until recently chief executive of the Girls Day School Trust, becomes a dame; and Justine Roberts, co-founder and chief executive of Mumsnet and Gransnet, is made a CBE.

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