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Bradford schoolgirl becomes youngest ever YAYAs winner after her success on York St John University outreach scheme

Published: 01 December 2023

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3 people on an awards stage smiling at the camera

The Yorkshire Asian Young Achiever Awards, affectionately known as the YAYAs, are Yorkshire’s top awards to recognise the efforts of young people of South Asian heritage. They celebrate young people who have overcome deprivation and disadvantage, or successfully broken through barriers, to become successful role models in their chosen fields.  

The YAYAs are organised by the QED Foundation, a charity which works to improve the social and economic position of disadvantaged communities. 

As headline sponsor for the awards, York St John University is proud to support the common goal of recognising and supporting Yorkshire’s successful young South Asian people.   

Winners were all born in or live and work in Yorkshire and are aged between 16 and 30. But for the first time this year, a special category was set up to recognise the efforts of a Year 10 pupil. 

The YAY award was established to celebrate the outstanding dedication of pupils completing the new ‘YAY Mentoring programme.’ The programme was launched this year by York St John University in partnership with the QED Foundation. 

YAY stands for Young Asian Yorkshire and the mentoring programme aims to raise attainment within schools and support the future aspirations of South Asian pupils in Year 10 across Bradford and West Yorkshire. 

Over a 6-week period, York St John Student Ambassadors worked with two schools, Belle Vue Girls' Academy and Co-op Academy Grange, to deliver group mentoring sessions to pupils. These aimed to build confidence, develop knowledge and help pupils to understand how their current studies might connect to future aspirations, including the prospect of Higher Education.  

The inaugural winner of the YAY award was 15 year old Umra Andar from Belle Vue Girls who impressed mentors and judges with her level of engagement and enthusiasm for the project. 

Dr Rachael Glennon, Widening Participation Manager at York St John University said: “It has been a pleasure and privilege to launch the YAY scheme as we work together to further a shared commitment to Widening Participation, social mobility and race equality.  

“Congratulations to Umra and to all the other pupils who engaged so positively with the scheme.   

“We’re really looking forward to running the project again next year and are already in the process of recruiting more fantastic ambassador mentors. After the success of this year, we’re expanding to more schools and taking on larger cohorts from each.”   

All the winners were announced at a gala awards ceremony at the Cedar Court Hotel in Bradford, with ten award categories in total.  

The Overall Winner for 2023, sponsored by York St John University, went to Mariam Habib. Mariam  is studying for a university degree whilst taking care of her son, who has multiple health conditions and is highly dependent on her. She also faced an abusive marriage while pregnant with her second child. Taking a year out to raise her two children, she returned to her studies a year later.  

Professor Karen Bryan OBE, Vice Chancellor of York St John University presented the main award. She said: “At York St John, we have been a proud partner of the YAYA awards for four years. Just like the QED Foundation, we believe that talent comes from a diverse range of backgrounds and that it is our responsibility to help eliminate barriers to opportunity.   

“The awards are incredible and inspiring showcase of the talent, creativity, and passion amongst the South Asian community here in Yorkshire.” 

More about the awards and all the winners on the YAYAs website.

Image shows (l-r) Noreen Khan, YAYAs host; Umra Andar, YAY Award winner; Rob Hickey, Chief Operating Officer at York St John University

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