Finola completes term in UK Youth Parliament
"An honour and a privilege", says Sheffield journalism student
First-year journalism student Finola Fitzpatrick has been speaking up for her generation in the House of Commons.
She is one of 400 young people aged 11 to 18 elected to the UK's Youth Parliament, and recently took part in a debate chaired by the Speaker of the House, the Rt Hon John Bercow.
The issues debated included youth unemployment, bullying, how young people can get better work experience, and whether 16- and 17-year-olds should be eligible to vote. Finola was representing young people in her home region of north-east England.
She has been heavily involved with youth politics since she was 15 and has been a member of the UK Youth Parliament since February 2012.
Finola was elected to her local Youth Cabinet by 1,900 young people in 2010 and has also served in the Children's Commissioner for England's Youth Advisory Group and her local Youth Police Authority.
Making a difference
Finola said: "It has been an honour and a privilege to represent the young people in my area over the last three years. For me it is not about being able to put this sort of experience on my CV – it is the pride of knowing that I have put everything into trying to make an active and visible difference to my area.
"Organisations such as the UK Youth Parliament are not tokenistic, but a real opportunity for young people to be the change they wish to see."
Members of the UK Youth Parliament consult with the young people in their areas throughout the year. The annual House of Commons debate serves as a culmination of their work.
Each topic debated there is chosen by young people from across the United Kingdom, according to how they voted in the Youth Parliament's nationwide survey, Make Your Mark. Members of the Youth Parliament then vote to determine which issue should be the basis of their national campaign for the coming year.
This year the campaign was for 16- and 17-year-olds to be allowed to vote in in all public elections – the current qualification age is 18.
Now that Finola's time on the UK Youth Parliament is coming to a close, she is eager to inspire others to stand for election and join other youth groups. She said: "I cannot express enough just how valuable the youth service is in changing the lives of young people; the youth service has helped make me who I am today."
In 2014 Finola will meet ministers in London to present a child poverty report she has been working on with the Children's Commissioner's advisory group.
Finola also represents first years on the Department of Journalism Studies' staff-student committee, which reviews each term's teaching and enables staff and students to swap views on what is working well and anything that needs to change.