Celebrating brave and talented at the Youth Awards

Ellie-Mae Wheeler, Overall Winner at the Youth Awards
Ellie-Mae Wheeler, Overall Winner at the Youth Awards
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Winners of The News Youth Awards were announced in an emotional ceremony at the Kings Theatre, Southsea last Sunday. Jeff Travis takes us through some of the winners’ stories and their reaction, plus runners-up in some of the categories

Ellie-Mae Wheeler shows wisdom and kindness beyond her years.

The 11-year-old wowed the judges with her attitude towards life in the face of adversity.

She was beaming as she was declared this year’s Star of the Family and also the Overall Winner of the Youth Awards.

Ellie-Mae, who attends Mill Hill Primary and is from Waterlooville, joined Young Carers in October last year and supports her dad Lee and two younger brothers, who have special educational needs.

She has had a lot to deal with in her young life and lives in a single parent family.

She will help around the house – washing up, tidying her brothers’ room and helping her three-year-old brother, who has autism.

In the nomination, Vicky Bannister, from Havant Young Carers, said: ‘This young woman is exceptional.’

After winning, Ellie-Mae said: ‘It’s amazing.’

Asked why she does so much for her father and brothers, she said: ‘I like making them happy.’

Fighting back tears, her dad Lee Wheeler, 42, of Forest End, said: ‘I’m over the moon. She deserves it. I’m just so proud of her.’

And he added: ‘I don’t even have to ask for her to help around the house.

‘She just does it. She does not ask for anything.

‘She’s a little godsend to be honest. Her nature is just so beautiful.’

STAR OF THE ENVIRONMENT

Luke Tuffs is an extraordinary school pupil.

And his love of the environment has been one of highlights at The Harbour School in Milton.

The 13-year-old was a deserving winner of the Star of the Environment sward.

His teacher, Tara Watkins, said: ‘Luke has a diagnosis of high-functioning autism and presents as having anxiety, particularly in group settings with peers and in response to changes in his routine.’

‘A highly compassionate and gifted young man, Luke makes caring for others a priority.

‘Luke has created a charity focused on tree planting and raised money for this charity through planting and selling tree shoots.’

Catherine Walker, who manages The Harbour School in Milton, was overwhelmed with joy as she accepted the award on Luke’s behalf. She said: ‘I’m delighted for Luke. This will help to recognise his achievements.’

STAGE STAR OF THE YEAR

There were cheers of delight as Havant Dynamo Youth Theatre was named the winner in this category. Its creative and colourful performances need to be seen to be believed.

Charlie Palmer, 12, Emma Bailey, 12, and Holly Beauvoisin, 15, accepted the award on behalf of the youth theatre, which has been running for 35 years.

They put on up to three shows a year. Their latest show was a world premiere written by local author Greg Mosse with music by John Gleadall.

After winning, Charlie said: ‘I feel ecstatic. I’m so shocked.’

Emma said: ‘It’s quite a privilege for everyone at Dynamo.

‘It helps people between the ages of 11 and 18 work to their full potential.

‘It’s brilliant working as a team.’

The youth theatre was nominated by Emma’s mum, Helen Bailey, who said the group instils confidence and discipline in young people.

‘Their shows are brilliant,’ she said.

The runner-up for the category was Elliot Swann, 17, from Fareham.

He was beaming as he received his trophy.

Elliott has performed in more than 55 shows, including The Jungle Book, Cats and The Nutcracker.

His nomination said: ‘Elliot excels in all areas of stagecraft including singing, dancing, acting and musicianship.’

‘He has also reached the finals of Youth Dance England with his elite dance company Overground Fusion , and will be in Bath to compete in this.

‘He also takes time to help members of the Fareham Musical Society Youth Theatre with writing their notes, reading their scripts and giving them confidence on stage.’

STAR OF THE COMMUNITY

Teenager Millie Payne is a true role model for the community.

The 16-year-old’s giving nature impressed the judges and she was a worthy winner of the Star of the Community award.

Millie attends Crofton School in Stubbington and was nominated by her youth worker, Fi Durrant.

Ms Durrant described Millie as ‘an outstanding individual’.

Millie came to work with Ms Durrant for a Duke of Edinburgh Award placement to complete her three months’ service for her Bronze award.

While Millie was working hard for her GCSEs, she still found the time to come every week to the club to work with people less fortunate than herself.’

Ms Durrant said: ‘Millie always has time to stop and chat with the young people and listen to them talk about their week or their own troubles.’

After winning, Millie told the audience: ‘I like helping people.’

She later told The News: ‘I am completely shocked.

‘I like seeing the smile on other people’s faces and knowing I have helped someone else feel better about themselves.’

Her mum, Lisa Payne, of Bell Davies Road, Stubbington, said: ‘I’m just feeling really proud of her.

‘She’s worked incredibly hard on her GCSEs.’

The runner-up was Havant Volunteer Police Cadets. The cadets have been a real asset to the community over the past 18 months, working on several crime prevention operations as well as a number of engagement projects.