Student wins award for community work in Perth

A Perth College UHI student has won a prestigious award for transforming path access for the benefit of the surrounding community.

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Lecturer Caroline and student Bethany.

Bethany Paterson, from the Moving On course, was awarded the Path Skillz Young Person of the Year accolade at this year’s Paths for All Volunteer Awards for being an integral part of a team clearing the Old Gallows Road to Huntingtower path, on the west side of Perth.

The Perth student was commended at the virtual awards ceremony hosted by BBC’s Scotland’s Fiona Stalker on November 4.

Bethany’s lecturer, Caroline Cowe, said: “The Moving On course is designed for young people requiring support while facing challenging transitions. As part of the course, we worked towards the Duke of Edinburgh Award and got involved with Paths for All.

“There was a rural walkway nearby that we cleared up. It took a lot of planning beforehand to see how to do it correctly. In a group of between six and eight we cut it all down and tidied the whole thing up.

“What was great for the young people was the fact that dog walkers who know the path would comment on how much better it looked every time they walked past. This was really rewarding for the young people because they felt like they were really making a difference.

“I sent Paths for All a report of how beneficial the project had been. The young people all had a new appreciation for the outdoors and for teamwork, they really came together as a group not just with each other but with the lecturers as well. All being there together levelled the playing field and they felt like they could open up to us. Just mentally there was such a positive shift.

“You could see the change in everyone’s self-esteem. Even in their body language alone. They were laughing and having fun. Just being teenagers. They’ve also got a new appreciation for the outdoors and there were times they just wanted to stay and look around.”

Bethany motivated her peers and showed real leadership in coordinating the project and has since used this positive experience to apply for a practical course at the college.

Caroline said: “Bethany is an absolute grafter. She had on the full kit – waterproofs, goggles, and a helmet. She worked her socks off. Within the group, Bethany led by example. When people weren’t enthusiastic, she encouraged everyone to get involved.

“Bethany motivated everyone with a big grin on her face. She’s really excellent at practical learning. She has an almost photographic memory the way she’s learned to adapt and memorise how to do things. The confidence she has gained from being a leader during the project was that extra push she needed to apply for a practical course at college. In the future we’re hoping to take ownership on this path and continue with the project throughout next year.”

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham described the youngsters’ efforts as “inspiring” and an “invaluable contribution”.

Moving On is targeted at young people requiring a supported transition into further education or work.

Paths for All works with the Scottish Government and 30 partners to support and deliver national policies, such as the National Walking Strategy and other ‘active travel’ initiatives.