Scotland's brightest and best young people are being invited to take part in an 'elitist' programme. Neil Munro reports.
The Hunter Foundation, long associated with young people struggling to cope, this week switched its attention to "the brightest and the best" in the hope of turning them into tomorrow's leaders.
In a multi-million pound initiative, the Hunter Leadership Programme will offer up to 10 "extraordinary young people" every year what it describes as an "unrivalled leadership development 'bridge'", following an open competition in Scotland launched in Glasgow on Wednesday.
The foundation will invest pound;50,000 in each youngster, and is putting no time limit on its involvement in the "high octane" project. Aimed at "exceptional and altruistic 16 to 19 year-olds living in Scotland", the programme has the twin aims of helping the chosen few reach their potential and make a contribution to society.
Sir Tom Hunter said: "We remain unconvinced our system does enough to inspire, nurture, develop and educate the next generation of inspirational leaders. This 'bridge' programme is unashamedly elitist: we want to help Scotland's finest young people make it on to the global stage and stretch and challenge them, in the hope they will not only build their own capacity but, in time, build Scotland's capacity as a leading nation."
The programme, refined after eight young people participated in a pilot in 2007-08, has four key elements: leadership development; internships; citizenship and alumni. Among the experiences covered in the pilot programme were volunteering at the Clinton global initiative, building a school in Malawi, a "philantrophy and leadership" workshop with Sir Tom, a physical canoeing challenge with paraplegic mountaineer Jamie Andrew and visiting actor and director of the Old Vic in London Kevin Spacey.
Collette Oliver, one of the eight on the pilot programme, is interested in a career using languages, but worked at Children in Need and will shortly work with HBOS in Madrid in their PR and marketing department.
The deadline for entries is February 29 and a panel of judges will make the final selection in June. It will be headed by Sir Tom and include screenwriter and campaigner, Richard Curtis; violinist Nicola Bennedetti; Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Foundation of New York; and Harvard professor Jim Kim.
Applications for the programme will be handled exclusively online at www.hunterleadership.co.uk.
WHAT THE TRAILBLAZERS SAY
COLLETTE OLIVER (18),
Former school captain of St Ninian's High in Kirkintilloch; plans to study French and Spanish at St Andrews University.
"The Hunter leadership programme has given me greater confidence in myself to achieve my goals and aspirations. It has taught me that, with drive, vision, passion and hard work, I have the potential to make great changes on a global scale."
MATTHEW VICKERY (18),
Former vice-captain at Tain Royal Academy; place at Aberdeen University to study politics and international relations.
"This programme has opened my eyes to the untapped potential I have in me to create a positive impact on Scotland and the wider world. I've become comfortable in my own skin, and confident that I can reach the top."
LESLEY THOM (17)
Ex-Cumnock Academy; plans to attend optometry course at Glasgow Caledonian University.
"This programme has let me see that you shouldn't follow the 'guidelines' of life just because that's what everyone says is best for you. It is hard work being on this programme; it constantly tests you and pushes you so far out of your comfort zone that you won't remember what your comfort zone feels like anymore."
CLAIRE SMITH (19)
Formerly at Monifieth High; now runs her own business, Caledonian Gifts
"The programme has allowed me to develop my confidence in many areas such as presentations, writing business plans and when meeting prestigious people. It's given me an 'anything is possible' attitude. I hope my experiences will allow me to make a key contribution to the Scottish economy and be a well-known face in the business world."
CHRIS SHAW (17)
Formerly of Cumnock Academy; plans to run his own sporting organisation or be a top sports coach.
"Through this programme, I have been able to create a football league in Malawi that incorporates basic education and healthcare, as well as giving people the opportunity to represent their country. I am a very competitive person and always try my hardest to succeed at whatever I do. Having access to world class leaders is truly motivational and inspirational, as well as helping me to work on my strengths and weaknesses as a leader."
ALBANY MULHOLLAND (18)
Ex-Gordonstoun; place at Imperial College, London, to study mechanical engineering.
"The programme has lived up to my expectations, not only challenging me and taking me far outside my comfort zone. It has developed new abilities, strengthening my confidence through meeting and talking with many important and famous people, sharpening my mental agility. This had taught me to think quickly on my feet. It is not an easy programme to follow, for it challenges in many ways; neither is it a panacea for all the difficulties that one might face in a chosen career. But it will provide the basic strengths and knowledge required to face up to them."
NIALL GRANT (17)
Attends North Berwick High, where he is head boy; also runs his own business, Teenwork Scotland Ltd.
"The Hunter leadership programme has really changed the way I view leadership, and has created so many opportunities for me that otherwise would not have arisen. The course is hard work and can be stressful at times, but it teaches you so many things about yourself and others that are invaluable."
CAROLINE FRASER (19)
Ex-Gordonstoun; place at Leeds University to study English literature and Italian.
"Over the past four months, I have been challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone through tests of endurance, courage and lateral thinking. I have learnt numerous things about success. I have learnt how important it is to get the balance of play and purpose just right. But the thing I will take away from this whole experience is the knowledge that, with controlled passion and enough determination, an individual can achieve anything."