Kayleigh Kopieczek (YMCA East Surrey) - WINNER

Kayleigh experienced severe bullying at school which gravely impacted her mental health and left her feeling isolated. Luckily, she found her way to YMCA East Surrey’s mental health and wellbeing programme WAVES and over time grew more confident and independent, even passing her A-Levels and becoming the first person in her family to go to university. Kayleigh has also shown great compassion for others at WAVES, becoming a Mental Health Champion and great role model, even helping to maintain online support when COVID hit. 

In her spare time, Kayleigh created positive mental health activities that young people could do at home, recorded videos around how to look after your mental health during lockdown, and led Zoom sessions alongside youth workers around important mental health and wellbeing topics. Kayleigh helped to keep WAVES going and strengthened the online community. 

While Kayleigh has overcome what happened to her, some days still are harder than others, however she has turned her experiences into something positive and will not let it stop her from pursuing the things she wants to do.


Megan is a young carer who provides for her younger brother. During the pandemic, Megan’s role increased dramatically as her brother’s carers were unable to provide the care needed, and he was unable to attend any respite. Megan knew she needed to support the family during this time and stepped up to support him emotionally and physically.  

While doing all of this, Megan also managed to stay on top of her schoolwork, help her family and get involved in activities to look after her own physical and mental wellbeing. Megan is respected as a senior member of the Young Carers Project and has lots of other young carers who look up to her. During lockdown when all services went online, Megan planned and led sessions as a release for herself and other young carers, with activities ranging from online baking to interactive scavenger hunts. 

Megan also gave a lot of her time to developing and creating short animation films which are now used by YMCA Swansea to raise awareness for Young Carers. Megan co-wrote the script, designed characters and provided a voiceover for a character in the animation – an exceptionally brave thing to do given her speech impairment. Megan does not give up or let things become a barrier easily – she achieves what she sets her mind to. 

Megan’s film is also used in schools, businesses and youth organisations across Swansea to help identify hidden young carers, as well as being used as a teaching resource in YMCA Swansea’s officially accredited training ‘Understanding Young Carers’, which Megan has achieved herself to become Swansea’s first Young Carers Champion, advocating for young carers in her community. 

2021 Youth Matters Awards Finalists