Catherine Coleman is our first ‘Young Local Hero’. We first met her a few years ago when my daughter started Brownies in Bridgnorth – she was there as a helper – and her friendly, welcoming face provided consistent reassurance week in week out.
But it was as we got to know this modest and unassuming girl that her commitment to her school, to working with young children, and most importantly, her genuine empathy and kindness became apparent. When Bridgnorth Endowed School nominated her as a young local hero – it came as no great surprise to hear of all the things she gets up to ‘behind the scenes’ – which includes a staggering 18 hours a week of voluntary work in the community.
Catherine’s predisposition to helping others was identified early on when she was offered a place on the schools Peer Mentoring Scheme aged just 14. The idea is that youngsters are trained to be able to offer a confidential, listening ear for other children within the school, on themes ranging from personal worries to school issues, at a time when they would rather talk to a pupil than a teacher. Catherine was clearly well suited to this role and as a sixth former undertook further training to not only help her develop her own skills but was also able to lead and deliver training herself to a network of new, younger peer mentors within the school.
The mentoring began to point Catherine towards a career working with children, so she took it upon herself to start volunteering in roles where she would gain experience of youngsters in both a fun environment and in a learning environment. Using the time after her GCSEs to full advantage, she worked as a volunteer in St Leonard’s Nursery for six weeks, and still remains a regular volunteer there, offering her time three afternoons a week. She has a particular interest in language acquisition amongst young children and is always keen to further her skills and understanding by taking a lead from the teaching staff.
“She identifies the nervous one, or the one who needs some special attention for whatever reason, and fills the gap”
Catherine also helps out with both the 1st and 2nd Tasley Brownie packs’ weekly meetings, which she has done for the past three years and which she clearly loves doing and has gained in confidence to lead the group as a whole, and take part in all sorts of activities. Catherine laughs; “Well I was a Brownie and it’s great to be back – I really enjoy it, it’s great fun!” That said, by watching this quiet and impressive young lady in action at a Brownie meeting, you see she has a rare but valuable talent, almost a sixth sense; she see quickly what needs to be done – she identifies the nervous one, or the one who needs some special attention for whatever reason, and fills the gap – very subtly – to make sure that little girl is bought into the group, is made to feel at home and comfortable, indeed, is able to get the most they can out of the meeting. It doesn’t sound much but it’s priceless.
“She is an absolute credit to her parents and to this school”
So now Catherine, who is in her final sixth form year at Bridgnorth Endowed, is looking towards a career in teaching and is busy picking her way through the minefield of applications; with what she has already demonstrated in terms of the time she is willing to give to others – I truly hope she will be successful. Sophie Stone, Catherine’s mentor from the school said; “She is an absolute credit to her parents and to this school and we’ll miss her when she goes – she puts in so much hard work, which she does quietly, diligently and enthusiastically.”
On top of the volunteering she does outside school, Catherine helps the school music department a huge amount; helping to lead the choir and training band, and always encouraging younger musicians. Head of Music Beverley Whiteman said; “She displays a maturity beyond her years. She will be sorely missed.”
At a time when the future must look somewhat daunting for any school leaver, when the press are keen to tell us how bone-idle teenagers are, when David Cameron talks about the The Big Society – how encouraging and heartening it is to find a young person who is so willing to give of their time, without pomp and fanfare. The What’s What team were delighted that the High Sheriff, Mr Hugh Trevor-Jones, recognised Catherine at his recent reception in the Town Hall and it was a real pleasure to see hard work, diligence and modesty so aptly credited.