ANGUS College student, Arbroathian Mike Rennie, won the Individual Learner Volunteering Award at the prestigious Scotland’s College’s Annual Award ceremony at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, on Tuesday evening.
He was recognised for the extensive and successful voluntary work he undertakes through his self created ‘Mike’s Bikes’ community youth project. It is supported by Angus College and Mike uses his college learning and role within the student association to inform and influence his volunteer project – and vice versa.
Mike’s Bikes was set up just as he was starting his studies at Angus College and works to help disengaged youths - predominantly male - who are at risk of offending.
In addition to the college, Mike works closely with many community partners including Tayside Police, Angus Drug and Alcohol Team, his church, Panbride ESP Centre, the Oyster Trust, and various youth services, and works with groups of boys in the 12 to 17 years age bracket from around the Angus area.
The Mike’s Bikes project is entirely funded through donations and Mike’s own personal fund-raising efforts. Making use of the mechanical engineering skills he has developed at college to repair motorbikes and build off road buggies, Mike teaches young males how to rebuild motor bikes, quad bikes, and understand vehicle mechanics.
To date Mike’s Bikes has worked with almost 50 young people and has witnessed hugely positive outcomes through using mechanical engineering as the vehicle to support social and personal development and reduce the risk of offending and decline into crime, alcohol and drugs.
Mike is very open about his own past and describes himself as an ex-drug addict and offender who has turned his life around. Through his personal experience he is able to engage with his target group and uses his insight and experiences to guide and support others.
John Burt, principal of Angus College, said: “Given his past experiences, Mike has empathy with the young people he works with and believes that there is good in all of them. His philosophy is that they are misunderstood in our society and that it is the role of his project to offer them the opportunities to grow and develop and become respected, fully-participating members of society - just as he has done himself.
“Mike’s commitment, and the positive impact it has had on the lives of many young people in Angus, marks him out as an individual of whom Angus and the Scottish FE sector as a whole should be proud. We are delighted to see his success recognised.”
Angus College was also commended in the International Award category, recognising the work of the college’s Measuring and Assessing Soft Skills (MASS) project which works in partnership with 46 educational professionals from Sweden, Netherlands, Greece and Romania to develop, share, enhance and translate learning materials to develop soft skills in learners who are traditionally regarded as ‘hard to reach’ or ‘disengaged’.