Hitchin cadet duo are nominated for coveted awards in recognition of their progress through the ranks
PUBLISHED: 17:00 12 September 2015
A teenager who has changed from being a real handful to a responsible leader is in the running for the youth 'Oscars' which salute outstanding young people in Herts.
Tom Ellwood went from being a bad boy clowning around to sergeant – and now trains younger cadets.
And in another about-turn at Hitchin’s army cadets, shy Laurence Thompson has turned into a confident adult instructor.
Both have now marched into the reckoning for the annual Mitsubishi Electric Young People of the Year awards, which offer both recognition and cash prizes.
There’s a £500 senior prize for a role model aged 18 to 25, and a £300 award for the top candidate aged 10 to 17.
Either prize can be won by an individual or group, with winners investing most of their prize fund in a good cause. There will also be £100 runners-up prizes on offer.
The nominees were put forward by the Bedford Road detachment commander Michelle Brunetti.
Tom, now 18, has been with the cadets for six years. “He’s naturally cheeky and as a youngster he did not recognise boundaries – this got him into trouble,” she said.
“He was easily led and while those egging him on knew when to stop, Tom did not.”
After a couple of disciplinary scrapes, it was touch and go whether the cadets would keep him on. “Tom did not want to leave,” said Michelle. “He realised he had to knuckle down.”
The unit is linked to the Royal Army Medical Corps and Tom excelled in first-aid, particularly teaching it to others.
He is now preparing for a senior cadet instructor course, having earned the rank of sergeant.
“The youngsters who previously laughed at his antics now respect him,” said Michelle, adding that Tom is now the most helpful, dedicated senior cadet she could ask for, a brilliant role model and recruiter who inspires other cadets.
Laurence was once painfully-shy cadet so it was a surprise when he asked to come back as an adult instructor after cadets have to leave aged 19.
Michelle was shocked to discover her former cadet had already embarked on an army career, but sadly was medically discharged after 18 months because of nerve damage to a leg.
But he went back to Hitchin as an adult instructor and Michelle said: “He is now much more confident. I can always rely on him. He puts a lot of time and thought into his responsibilities as an adult instructor.
“Both these young men have turned out to be great assets for the detachment.”
North Herts College sports student Tom, of Whitehill Road, admitted he used to back chat others and sometimes argue with the adults.
He said: “There were times when I just did not know when to shut up. I got demoted and lost my lance-corporal rank, but I spoke to Michelle and she convinced me to stay. Then I found some people had fought my side to keep me in. I decided that I wanted to repay them and I was worth their time.”
Now he is planning a military career.
Laurence, of Sandover Close, who works as a parts adviser for a local garage, said: “The army helped me develop as a young person and grow in confidence.
“I love what I do with the cadets. There’s a huge opportunity and amazing experience to know that the kids go home happy after the cadets.”
YOPEY founder Tony Gearing said: “Top marks to these two young men for the way they have developed and are now giving back to the cadets.”
It’s not too late to make a nomination for this year’s YOPEY awards, open to young people aged from 10 to 25, who live, work or study in Herts and who give to others. Visit yopey.org or write, enclosing stamped addressed envelope, to YOPEY, Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road, Stradishall, Newmarket CB8 8YN for a paper entry form. Entries must be received by Friday, September 18. Sponsors this year include North Hertfordshire Homes.