Walsall teenager named as Young Active Citizens Awards winner

An inspirational teenager from Walsall has been named as one of four winners in the Young Active Citizens Awards 2024.

The awards, launched by The West Midlands Lieutenancy in 2020, acknowledge the outstanding contribution and celebrate the extraordinary things young people across the West Midlands do.   

Joel Rushton, 17, from Walsall, won the 12–17-year-old category after giving up his personal time to work with Walsall Council to shape services for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).     

Joel, who himself has autism and anxiety, has used his own experiences and knowledge to make sure other people’s voices are heard. He has also been instrumental in co-designing and producing Walsall Council's SEND Local Offer website which has received positive feedback from the local community and the Department for Education.   

Councillor Chris Towe, Mayor of Walsall between 2023/24, personally nominated Joel.  

Councillor Towe said, “Joel's unwavering commitment to shaping services for young people with SEND in Walsall is truly inspiring.    

“Despite facing his own challenges, he has been working with the Council to ensure that the voices and experiences of other children and young people in Walsall are heard and considered.   

“We are immensely grateful for Joel's contributions, and his advocacy for his peers is a shining example of making a real difference.”   

In addition to helping create Walsall Council's SEND Local Offer, Joel has also given up his time to be part of other projects, including the recruitment of new staff.  

Joel Rushton said, “I am so glad that I’ve been able to represent and help those that have gone through, or are currently going through, similar experiences to me and I feel honoured to have been given this award.”  

Alison and Eliot Rushton, Joel’s parents, said, “We are so very proud of Joel. He has dealt with so much over the past few years and can still struggle every day to do what most of us take for granted, but he has pushed himself out of his comfort zone in order to help other people.  

“Joel is our hero, and it was incredible to see him collect his award knowing how far he has come.”

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