HIGHLAND HEROES: Tain youth volunteer aims to make a career of helping young people a year on from "inspiring" awards night
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Olivia Macleod had not long left Knockbreck Primary for Tain Royal Academy when she took a fateful decision that would eventually lead her back to her early classrooms.
At 12 years old, she became a member of the YMCA Tain youth committee and has continued avidly volunteering ever since.
The 18-year-old’s contribution at the youth café, coupled with many hundreds of volunteering hours she has completed, earned her an unforgettable night out and Highland Heroes award last year.
Those endeavours have also played a big part in taking Olivia back to Knockbreck Primary as part of a modern apprenticeship she is completing and a possible career in education.
“I’m here at Knockbreck five days a week as part of the modern apprenticeship,” she explained. “I hope that I will be able to make a career of it, because I do enjoy it.
“My interest is in being a pupil support assistant, rather than teaching. I enjoy being in the classroom and interacting with the young people.
“When I was in my last year in secondary school, I completed the foundation apprenticeship and was put on placement one day a week. That led to me being offered the modern apprenticeship and I took it as I was already settled at the school. It felt right.
“It is quite funny really to be back at Knockbreck Primary, my old school, and quite nostalgic.”
Olivia has won numerous awards and was one of only eight young people in the Highlands to receive the Saltire Summit Award for her ongoing commitment to volunteering.
She amassed 500 volunteering hours towards it during lockdown and a further 1100 hours She has happy memories of last year’s Highland Heroes Awards, but admits she was a bag of nerves at having to get up on stage.
“I really didn’t expect the award,” she recalled. “I get so nervous for things like that and when I had to get up on the stage I was like ‘oh my God, what’s going on?’
“I look back on it fondly now, and I do quite often look back at the photos that were taken because it was a really good night.
“My mum, Kats, and best friend Amy accompanied me on the night and they were just so happy for me.
“Hearing the stories of other people, and what they do selflessly and often without recognition they deserve, was very inspiring.”