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London 2012 Can Challenge Negative Perceptions of Youth

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It saddens me whenever I see yet another story labelling all of the youth of Britain as uneducated, unemployable or criminals. A lot of people have a toxic attitude to youth in this country which can be damaging and, in my experience, tarnishing them all in this way is completely unfair.

Through my charity the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust I have been involved with the London 2012 Young Leaders' Programme. The initiative, which fulfils a commitment during London's bid to host the Games to inspire young people, has given personal development support to 100 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds over the last two years.

Individual coaching is provided by BP employees, with day to day help from v Inspired and the Aberdeen Foyer and inspirational support from Olympic and Paralympic athletes provided through my charity.

Today the Young Leaders will receive their well-deserved certificates from Sebastian Coe at a ceremony in London. 74 of the group have been appointed as Games Makers to work in a voluntary capacity in different roles at London 2012. For many of them it was the first time they had faced a formal interview. During the Games they will be on the front line greeting visitors from around the world.

When I first they met them they were as quiet as mice. Some were demoralised, feeling the stigma of relentlessly negative news coverage about their peer group and the places where they live. But I have seen myself how the self-esteem, communication and life skills of these Young Leaders have developed.

After two years of hard work and with the support of their mentors, these young people have been transformed. Many are now studying at university or elsewhere. All have taken on significant volunteer roles. They have bright futures and so much to offer.

One example is Ahmed Siddiqui from Hillingdon. He is the main carer for a relative yet he managed to be a member of the UK Youth Parliament, organises sport sessions for disabled children and plays for his school basketball team. He is a natural leader.

At the other end of the country Katie Lowe from Aberdeen has made great strides. After a family tragedy when she was an infant she spent most of her childhood in foster care and suffered from depression. During the programme Katie has gained confidence and leadership skills. She will be a Games Maker in the Olympic Park and is looking to take on her first work placement in the coming months.

The London 2012 Young Leaders are proof that when young people are given a purpose and structure they can excel, even if they have had few opportunities in life.

When the world comes to London in July, I'm confident that these 74 Games Makers will demonstrate the true nature of our young people: helpful, optimistic, talented and enthusiastic.

The London 2012 Young Leaders' Programme is supported by BP

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