Amnesty unveils its 2012 Young Human Rights Reporters of the Year

Amnesty International’s Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year reached its climax this afternoon with the unveiling of the 2012 winners at a prestigious ceremony in London.

The competition attracted over 3,000 participants from all four corners of the UK and was split into four categories. The top three in each category were invited to the ceremony at Amnesty International UK’s headquarters in Shoreditch, along with a parent, a teacher and a classmate.

The competition was run in collaboration with the Guardian Teacher Network and the education weekly SecEd.

Aine Clarke made the 420-mile trip from Newport in Fife with her mum Sara and her friend Emily Davis and Emily’s mum Louise to receive the top prize in the Upper Primary category from Kathyrn Cave.

Afterwards, the 12-year-old Aine said:

“I was absolutely shocked when it was my name that was read out. It was great. I never expected to win. The whole day was an amazing experience. ”

Alice Reynolds, 13, won the Lower Secondary category. Alice attends the Royal School in Haslemere and travelled to the ceremony with her dad Stephen, her teacher Bernadette Williams and her friend Alexia Kaloudis.

Alice wrote about labour camps in Vietnam. She was delighted and added:

“I was really surprised. It feels so good. I’m going to treasure this award for ever. It’s such a great honour.”

The Upper Primary and Lower Secondary categories were judged by Kathryn Cave, an award-winning Children's rights’s book author; Joseph Harker, assistant comment editor of The Guardian; Pete Henshaw, editor and publisher of secondary education newspaper SecEd; Angus Kirk, the 2011 Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year in the lower secondary category; Dan Jones, Nicky Parker and Laura Jayatillake from Amnesty International; and Ruth Marx a secondary school teacher.

Heather Booton, from Skipton Girls’ High School in Yorkshire, won the Upper Secondary school category for her article on abortions in Kenya. She received her award from the renowned author Anna Perera.

The 16 year old said:

“The standard of entries was so good. I was astonished to win. It’s huge for me, especially as I really want to go into journalism so this was great.

“I would say to anyone that it’s definitely worth a shot. It’s been a brilliant day. I genuinely didn’t expect to win.”

The winner for the Sixth Form category was Alice Woodhouse from Kings High School in Warwick. Alice, who celebrated her 17th birthday on Monday, wrote about prejudice against the Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Afterwards, a delighted Alice said:

“I was utterly gobsmacked and exhilarated and rather surprised. I honestly though it was not going to be Alice Woodhouse. I had read all the other pieces and they were very very good.

“Being a journalist is something I have always wanted to be. And this has given me the confidence to go for it. It feels like that is no longer such a far-flung dream and that I have a real hope of achieving it.”

There were six judges for the Upper Secondary and Sixth Form categories: Ian Cobain, senior reporter for The Guardian; Emily Drabble, contributing editor of The Guardian Teacher Network; Anna Perera, author of Guantanamo Boy; and Nicky Parker and Niall Couper from Amnesty International.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, added:

“Our congratulations go to all the winners. It’s been a fantastic competition and we’re proud to be encouraging the next generation of human rights journalists.

“Reporters play a vital role in shining a spotlight on the appalling human rights abuses that happen every day across the globe – issues that Amnesty frequently campaigns upon.

“And hopefully the entrants into the Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year can take up that mantle in the years ahead.

“In just over two weeks’ time we will be hosting Amnesty’s Media Awards, which celebrates the work of professional reporters. It is my hope that, in the future, some of today’s winners will grace that stage too.”

Full list of winners:

Upper Primary category: Winner: Aine Clarke (Newport Primary School, Newport, Fife); Runner-up: Emmet Carry Fennessy (St Georges RC primary, Enfield) and Lorna Williamson (Bablake Junior School, Coventry).

Lower Secondary category: Winner: Alice Reynolds (The Royal School, Haslemere); Runner-up: Georgia Gilholy (Paget High School, Burton Upon Trent) and Francesca Talbot (Benton Park, Rawdon, Leeds).

Upper Secondary category: Winner: Heather Booton (Skipton Girls’ High School, Skipton); Runner-up: Ciara McKay (St Andrews Academy, Paisley) and Oscar Hutchings (Wellsway School, Keynsham).

Sixth Form: Winner: Alice Woodhouse (Kings High School, Warwick); Runner-up: Stephanie Gabbatt (Bolton’s School Girls’ Division, Bolton) and Beth Rowland (Bablake School, Coventry).

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