A sixth form student who takes calls from troubled teens on a North Wales helpline has been chosen for a coveted place on the UK’s leading campaigning group for young people.
Katie Balmer, a pupil at leading independent school Myddelton College, Denbigh, is one of just ten Girl Guide representatives from across the country on the British Youth Council.
The organisation has helped lead the fight against period poverty and female genital mutilation and played its part in the successful campaign against topless Page Three models in The Sun.
The 17-year-old, who lives in Rhewl, near Ruthin, was thrilled to be chosen but will have to wait for the current coronavirus lockdown to end before she attends her first Council meeting in London.
She said: “I’ve always wanted to help young people, especially young women, and give them a voice and I’m passionate about politics.
“That’s why I applied and the school have been very supportive and encouraged me to put myself forward.
“They have also helped me set up a group at Myddelton College so that pupils can bring up issues because I always feel that a problem shared is a problem solved.”
Katie does duty after school on Friday evenings as a switchboard operator for Childline, based in Prestatyn, taking calls from often distressed young people and directing them to appropriate help.
She said: “I don’t believe there’s enough support for young people with mental health issues and as a Youth Council delegate I want to champion mental health through creating awareness and improving support
“I was encouraged to get involved on the switchboard by our headmaster at Myddelton College, Mr Andrew Allman, and although it can be difficult sometimes you do feel you are helping.
“The school has also been very supportive of me setting up a pupil monitoring and support system because although the staff are very caring, sometimes students don’t feel they can talk to teachers and we help them voice any issues and concerns.”
Headmaster Andrew Allman said: “Leadership is a very important part of our sixth form programme and we try hard to allow our students to gain valuable experience in preparation for our UCAS programme.
“In my previous school I introduced a peer support system and when Katie came up with a similar idea I was delighted.
“It has been wonderful to work alongside her in establishing such an important system to support the psychological well-being of our students. I am so pleased that all of Katie’s hard work has been recognised in this amazing achievement.”
Katie is taking Politics, History and English Literature at Myddelton College and hopes to go to university to study Politics after her A-levels next summer.
She is working from home at present, using the school’s sophisticated Microsoft Teams software which is ensuring that the students from around the world continue with their studies.
Her mum, Amanda, said: “The teachers at Myddelton have really boosted Katie’s confidence and helped her believe in herself to go for a place on the British Youth Council.
“She is very determined and undertakes a lot of things on her own initiative.
“She wanted to start the support system at Myddelton because she felt that children might often be nervous about approaching a teacher with a problem and the staff there have been very positive and encouraged her to take a lead on that.”
Katie joined the Girl Guides organisation as a Brownie at the age of seven and attends the weekly meetings of the Guides group at Henllan Village Hall, near Denbigh, as a Young Leader with the Brownies.
She added: “The Guides has been a very positive and enjoyable experience and I’ve been involved in their Young Leaders project which has helped prepare me for applying for a place on the Council.
“It involved an interview and I was thrilled to be accepted and now I’m just looking forward to playing a part in working with young people to campaign for change and for issues that affect them.”
Deputy head teach Alicia Davies said: “We’re delighted that Katie has been chosen for what is a very important role nationally and we’re sure she will be a very valuable addition to the British Youth Council.
“She is a very mature and intelligent young woman with a very positive commitment to her fellow students here at the college and I’m sure she will take that same empathy and determination on to her work with the Council.”
Myddelton College, a co-educational day and boarding school has 240 pupils and 70 staff and was the UK’s newest independent school when it opened in the autumn of 2016.
It is the only school in North Wales with a 5G network and the Estyn Report issued last year praised the way the school celebrates its diversity, said that pupils’ behaviour was “exemplary” and was also impressed by the high level of support and guidance provided by the “committed staff”.