Teenager wins award for lgbt activism and helping peers get active

Theo (third left) with other young ambassadors and Will Roberts from the Youth Sport Trust
Theo (third left) with other young ambassadors and Will Roberts from the Youth Sport Trust

A 17-year-old student from Shawlands Academy has picked up a prestigious UK award during the Youth Sport Trust’s 2019 Conference for his inspiring story of determination and courage through sport.

Theo Pieczka-Garner won the national children’s charity’s Beckwith CARE Award, during a ceremony in Coventry on 28 February, recognising and rewarding best practice and achievements through PE and sport by schools, colleges, and young people.

The teenager has shown how bravery can prove a powerful instrument of development. Theo is a founding member of the LGBT+ group at his school.

Four years ago, Theo and his friends felt the need to create a safe space where they could meet out of classes, mainly to socialise. With the support of his Pastoral Care teacher, the social group quickly turned into a forum for pupil voice around LGBT+ issues within the school. The group discussed and planned strategies to set about creating whole school change in attitudes and curricular areas.

Theo’s own personal journey through school as a transgender boy inspired others and gave examples of first-hand experiences that he was determined to change for future generations coming through the school.

He said: “Winning this award is incredible and really quite unexpected. I think it is not just an award for me but a joint award as I couldn’t have achieved all I have in the last few years without everyone in my school and all the people who started the LGBT group with me. Everyone at Shawlands deserves to be recognised.

“I’m so thankful for how I have been supported to be able to speak in public and have confidence in myself.”

Theo had the courage to speak to staff and share his own experiences of bullying and discrimination within the PE setting. He felt that gender segregation within certain activities, and isolation within the changing rooms was a huge barrier to his learning, which in turn supported several other LGBT+ pupils. The PE department were unaware of these issues, and together they set about making real change. As a direct result of his concerns, the school have introduced gender neutral toilets and ‘safe space’ changing rooms.

Theo was commended by judges for his bravery and courage.

Outside of school, Theo has also been involved in campaigning with ministers, changes to the gender identity legislation which will allow transgender people to change gender without intrusive interviews and justifications.

Ali Oliver, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: “The Youth Sport Trust would like to congratulate Theo for winning the prestigious Beckwith CARE Award. He has demonstrated a huge commitment to showing activism through sport and supporting his peers to be healthy both physically and mentally. Theo is a worthy winner of this special prize and truly embodies the mission and values of the Youth Sport Trust.”

A total of seven awards were presented at the Youth Sport Trust Awards Dinner with all awards aligned to the theme of this year’s conference, ‘Transforming Education Through Sport’.

For more information please visit www.youthsporttrust.org/yst-2018-conference