Alex Taylor (YMCA Barnsley) - WINNER

Alex has been a Youth Ambassador for YMCA since the programme’s inception, and has been involved with YMCA in one way or another since birth. Alex is a qualified youth worker and specialises in youth voice and participation, and serves as a young trustee at her local YMCA in Barnsley. 

Alex not only champions young people at a local and national level but also internationally, sitting on the YMCA Europe Youth Policy Group and representing YMCA at the European Youth Forum and UN ECOSOC in a voluntary capacity. 

Over the past year, Alex has gone above and beyond to call on the Government to prioritise the needs of young people. Last year she became YMCAs youth representative on the Back Youth Alliance, which is a national group speaking directly to the government about the needs and experiences of young people. In that time Alex has played a pivotal role in challenging the government as they formed how funding would be distributed, and is holding them to account with other youth representatives to ensure it is delivered. 

When funding was seen as being at risk, Alex quickly mobilised her support networks to back the YMCA call for an immediate funding release during the Government’s Autumn Spending Review. She held a session with other young people on what the current situation was and what they could do to support it. Alex not only took action herself but mobilised others to do so as well, which is the sign of an excellent campaigner. 

Genevieve Duque Adao (YMCA DownsLink Group)

Genevieve (they/them) created and runs the organisation ‘Queers Christian’s Brighton’, which researches all of the churches in Brighton to find out their stance on LGBTQ+ people and relationships. This information is then shared on social media, providing a clear indication of which churches and safe and welcoming for the LGBTQ+ community, alongside helpful accessibility information.  

Through research and personal experience, Genevieve has found that churches rarely admit if they are queerphobic and often use coded language to appear affirming when they aren’t. ‘Queers Christian’s Brighton’ posts information debunking this coded language, as well as answering questions and extending support. Through their research and openness, Genevieve has created a friendly, inclusive online community, and plans to collaborate with universities to carry out similar research in the future.

Katie Alsop (YMCA Cardiff)

Katie is an amazing young person with a determination to develop more awareness of young carers and mental health. She has been with YMCA Cardiff’s Young Carers Project for three years and has been a young carer to her Mum and Nan all her life.  

When lockdown hit, becoming a full time carer at home and balancing virtual schooling was a challenge, but Katie always made time for the young carers activities online. During this difficult time Katie created music and stories about her experiences, and when lockdown eased, she spoke inspirationally to Channel 4 News, raising awareness of young carers. 

Katie’s interview was widely viewed and even helped the YMCA Cardiff Young Carers Project recover public donations for help, support and respite activities. 

2021 Youth Matters Awards Finalists