Tony Gearing, former journalist at The Independent and Daily Telegraph, has been made an MBE for showcasing achievements of young people in the UK by founding the Young People of the Year awards or ‘YOPEY’.
Gearing felt the media’s depiction of young people was unjust: “In the early noughties it was as if every young person was a binge-drinking, drug-taking, violent hoodie.”
He resolved to use his journalistic skills to seek out young people positively impacting their communities to counteract the negative press. He began “writing their stories and encouraging the media to publish them”.
After the first YOPEY ceremony in Gearing’s hometown of Royston, Hertfordshire in 2005, over 6,000 young people have entered over 60 YOPEY competitions. Corporate sponsorship has seen over £130,000 in grants being awarded.
The initiative became a charity in 2012 with Gearing as Chief Executive.
His latest initiative ‘YOPEY Befriender’ involves recruiting school pupils to volunteer to visit the elderly in care homes.
On his move away from writing for national newspapers, Gearing said: “Nowadays I write stories about young people doing good things, and create opportunities for others to become great citizens. It’s very satisfying, good journalism.”