“Not below you, Not above you, Only beside you” – Young People Lead National Conference

Young people are not just the future, they should determine it. We all want a better future for the next generation, but how can we build that future without actively involving them in making decisions and shaping services? For our first National Conference on April 19th – during the Year of Young People – we decided to “Respectfully Disrupt” this way of thinking and hand young people the reins to lead us. Joined by more than 400 educators, policy makers, organisations and mentors from across Scotland, we came together to listen, collaborate and create a brighter future for all of Scotland’s young people.

“When young people are celebrated it encourages them and gives them confidence to do more, because they’re appreciated by other people. It makes them do more, give more.”

– Tessy, YGT Ambassador at St Mungo’s Secondary

50 YGT ambassadors – representing young people from across Glasgow secondaries – directed the event from start to finish. They led delegates through a series of challenging presentations and workshops, all designed to help the adults understand the issues and barriers facing young people. During these workshops, we were asked to really remember what it was like to be 15. To think back to the insecurities we all had and remember what it was like to be treated like a child but expected to make adult decisions.


YGT Ambassadors Chloe, Dylan, Sairah and Fabio commanded the stage, hosted the conference, shared their stories and introduced the programme for the day. The opening performance “Walk in my Shoes,” based on the experiences of young people, focussed on the constant inner voices that hold young people back. It was an evocative exploration of how their self belief and confidence is knocked by other people’s perceptions as well as their own insecurities. It highlighted the challenges of growing up in the age of social media when negative feelings are amplified by being under the constant spotlight of a world wide forum. The narrator challenged the delegates to remember their own teenage experiences – the frustration of not been heard – and put it into a current context. This emotive performance set the scene for a shared experience between the young people and the delegates, offering the opportunity to really listen to young people, to understand.

Workshops for Change

After this powerful introduction, the audience was split into 16 workshops led by the young people. They shared their experience of what interventions had a positive impact on their lives. Through these interactive workshops, the delegates also shared their own experiences of growing up. More importantly, delegates expressed how certain people had a positive impact on their own lives growing up.

Following this introspective session, delegates were asked to make pledges to help support young people to find grow and use their talent. The Ambassadors challenged them to create positive, inspiring affirmations that young people could use when experiencing challenges in their daily life.

“Change the things you can change and don’t worry about the stuff you can’t control.”

“Believe in yourself, be true to yourself, be kind to yourself and other and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Inspiring Partnerships – the way MCR works

After the workshops, we explored the ways MCR Pathways works in partnerships to improve the outcomes for young people. YGT Ambassador Shannon kicked off with an inspiring presentation where she shared her journey from a shy, unconfident learner to head girl at her school. Then Chloe, just in her 3rd year, interviewed our school panel about how the programme works in a practical basis within our schools. On stage, MCR Director Donna, School Link staff, Pathways Coordinators and John, a pupil at All Saints Secondary, shared the profound impact of mentoring on both the individual and the wider school community.

Young person Fabio then interviewed David Hillier, Dean of Strathclyde Business School, about the new and hugely innovative ‘Leadership through MCR Mentoring’ course. This brand new course for mentors will enhance their own professional development and allow them to gain accreditation for their volunteering. This section really brought to life the impact that the programme has on mentors. Not only in their ability to more actively listen, empathise and coach but how it impacts their career development.

Interviewing the Expert Panel

The Expert Panel gave the young people the opportunity to challenge those with the power to make real changes about issues that impact their lives. The session was focused on seeking solutions. Questions came from the direct and personal experiences and challenges of each of the young people. Often unseen or unspoken, they miss out on so many opportunities. From sibling caring responsibilities, lack of money even for bus fares, to racial and social discrimination, these challenges limit opportunities. It was a shining example of adults and young people working together to find ways to improve lives and build a stronger, motivated, more resilient city and country.

Our Young Ambassadors asked for answers on the challenges they face to our expert panel, which included:

  • Annemarie O’Donnell, Glasgow City Council CEO
  • Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employability and Training, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth MSP
  • Magnus Llewellin, Scotland Editor for The Times
  • Alan Inglis, Vice Principal at Glasgow Kelvin College
  • Michael Wood, Former Executive Director of Children and Families, Dundee City


During this panel, Jamie Hepburn also confirmed the Scottish Government’s support of the national expansion of the MCR Programme.

Stepping into the Future

Dylan, one of the stars of the day, introduced Iain MCR founder & CEO and his own mentee Chloe to share their own experience and vision of the future. Iain was then joined by Jamie Hepburn while Chloe took over interviewing them both. She asked them how the Scottish Government and MCR Pathways were working together to ensure mentoring’s positive impact on young people in Glasgow could be extended across the country. We want to ensure that every young person is supported into a sustainable, positive future and judged not on their circumstances but their talent.

John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, committed the Government to our young people. He announced the Government would match fund any Local Authority that wanted to take MCR mentoring on as part of the Attainment Challenge.

This all brought together beautifully how the MCR model has developed so effectively over 11 years and how the young people love every part of it.  As Iain reminds everyone, “the young people developed it after all.”

It’s a Wrap

The day ended as it had begun – with the focus back on the young people. The final presentation highlighted their aspirations and goals. Many of our ambassadors have faced difficult life challenges, but their resilience shined through when they told us about their dreams and ambitions. Because of their mentors, these young people have been given the support they needed to work hard, find their pathway and progress to a positive destination. The young people also inspired us of with their vision of the future where they will lead the way in creating a fairer, more equal society where everyone has the opportunity to flourish.

At every moment of the day, young people were leading and showing their incredible talent. This is the power of mentoring. These young people always had the potential – every young person is talented – but they need the support of a mentor to discover, grow and use that talent.

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