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Well hello, dolly

YouthLink Scotland's volunteer of the year and peer educator of the year both do exceptional work and both hail from North Lanarkshire. Here, Douglas Blane hears about their efforts in hospital and at a lunchtime Glee Club

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YouthLink Scotland's volunteer of the year and peer educator of the year both do exceptional work and both hail from North Lanarkshire. Here, Douglas Blane hears about their efforts in hospital and at a lunchtime Glee Club

Some people seem able to pack more into a day, a week or 17 years than the rest of us. Jayne Copeland, a sixth-year student at Clyde Valley High in Wishaw, has just been named youth worker of the year and volunteer of the year by YouthLink Scotland.

Jayne works with sick children at the local hospital and elderly people at a care home. She lives with her deaf grandmother and has been signing since she could speak. She has had cancer. She is a peer educator in school and an officer in the Girls' Brigade.

"I like helping people," she says simply. "I want to be a paediatric nurse, because I love working with kids. At first I wanted to be a music teacher. Then I realised people were struggling to get teaching jobs. So I talked it over with my mum, dad and big sister, who's a nurse, and decided that's what I wanted to do. I'm going to college this year."

Visiting elderly people in a care home is different from children in a hospital, Jayne says. "You play more dominoes for a start. But I enjoy it too. They like telling you about their lives, so I like doing it.

"If I had to pick from all the volunteering I do, it would be the sick kids. When you see them every week and they gradually get better and go home, that's a fantastic feeling. I play with them, talk to them, keep them entertained. I clean their playroom. That's in my study periods on Thursdays, so I catch up with studying at home."

The idea that she might want to get paid for some of the many things she does for other people - when she could be studying or having fun - strikes Jayne as strange. "It's volunteering," she says, her brow wrinkling in puzzlement. "You're there to help, not to get paid."

Volunteering and peer education have been a big part of the ethos at Clyde Valley High for years, says headteacher Ian Sommerville, who nominated Jayne for the YouthLink awards.

North Lanarkshire as a whole has always been strong on achievement, he explains. So he's pleased to see that reflected with several winners at national level this year. The authority's recording system for wider achievement includes more pupils at Clyde Valley High than at any other school in the area.

"One of the exciting elements of Curriculum for Excellence is its aim of developing young people's capabilities, whether it's musically, academically, athletically or just as decent people," he says."Jayne is outstanding and goes the extra mile for youngsters."

Peer education at Clyde Valley High involves lunch clubs, paired reading, and a transition summer school for new first-years, says Jayne. "Some kids find it daunting to come to a bigger school. So they get a lesson, a tour and activities - and they get to know the sixth-years, and realise if they need help we're here for them," says Jayne.

"I know how they feel, because I'm like that about going to college or university. It's a bit scary. I wouldn't mind staying on at school for a seventh year!"

She seems a confident, capable young woman, but wasn't always so, she says. "I used to be very quiet. Helping other people has brought me out of my shell. Then, when I was 15, I was diagnosed with cancer, and that brought my confidence right down."

She pulls her hair back to show a small circle at the temple. "That's where it was. They took it off and did a skin graft from behind my ear. It was painful but it was not the worst part. That was when they first told me I had cancer.

"It upset my mum and dad so much. I didn't want to upset them even more, so I didn't talk about it. Not to anybody. If it happened again I would, because I broke down a lot. It was better after the operation, because I talked to people at the Teenage Cancer Trust. If I got it again, I would talk to somebody a lot earlier."

Typically, Jayne turned her own illness into an opportunity to help others. She raised pound;610 for the trust, with a sponsored silence in school from 9am till 3.30pm and at home for 24 hours. "I don't shut up nowadays," she says. "So trying to stay silent for a day was a nightmare. But I managed."

YouthLink awards: www.youthlink scotland.orgIndex.asp?MainID=8996

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