North Ayrshire's Zara Kirkwood has been named Youth Worker of Year at the Scottish Sports Futures awards.

At the ceremony held on Thursday, she was praised for her tireless and selfless commitment to the young people in her care.

Scottish Sports Futures (SSF) use sport as a catalyst to enable young people to be healthier, more confident, and more resilient, so they are better prepared to combat the effects of poverty, trauma, and adversity.

Throughout the evening, seven awards were presented to young people, coaches, and organisations who have changed the lives of young people through the power of sport. 

Zara, from Irvine, came through SSF programmes initially as a young person herself, then as a volunteer.

Now, having moved into a sessional staff position, Zara is able to pull on her lived experience to better empathise with and support young people in her care.

She is a big advocate of sport and physical activity, and the role this can play in supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing, and she has been able to utilise this to support young people to better manage their own wellbeing throughout SSF programmes. 

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The winners at the ceremonyThe winners at the ceremony (Image: Sandy Young Photography)

Following her win, Zara said: “Being there for the young people through the highs and the lows, giving them that space, giving them that person, no matter how big or small something is, so that they have a person to come and talk too, is something I have loved.

"I’ve always had a passion for sport, to include sport in any way in my life and I love how some of the SSF programmes bring mental health into it and that’s a big thing for me, is allowing people to have that free space to come and be who they want to be.”

Forbes Dunlop, Chief Executive of sportscotland, said: “A huge congratulations to all the winners at this year’s Scottish Sports Futures Awards, who all truly deserve to be recognised for their passion and dedication they have for the work they do in communities across Scotland.”

“Our continuing partnership with organisations such as Scottish Sports Futures, is integral to the work we do as the national agency and getting to see how vital and important the work is to all the young people involved has been fantastic.

"Over the past few years, we have seen numerous SSF projects create inclusive environments, providing sport and physical activity opportunities for young people from a variety of backgrounds.”

Dougie Millen, Chief Executive of Scottish Sports Futures, said: “This year’s Scottish Sports Futures (SSF) Awards have been a huge success and recognise the talents and determination of amazing young people, community organisations and partners.

"I am incredibly optimistic about the role that sport can continue to play in transforming the lives of young people. The stories and successes we have heard demonstrate that sport can be a catalyst for bringing people together to celebrate diversity and make our communities stronger.

"We look forward to working with sportscotland and all our partners to ensure that every young person feels that sport is a place they belong and can thrive.”