Bright Future Prize - Meet the finalists

28 October 2021

In April, Ardonagh Community Trust (ACT), the registered charity of The Ardonagh Group, launched its first Bright Future Prize – a new funding stream targeting teens with big dreams for their communities. The prize aimed to empower young people to support a community they care about to thrive.

Candidates were asked to propose a special project or a cause close to their heart, that was in need of funding and would have a positive impact on their community.

The main prize of £20,000, together with a programme of specialist mentoring, will help our winner to make their community of choice better, brighter and stronger.

Entries were of an exceptionally high calibre, but after much deliberation we are delighted to introduce the finalists of the Bright Future Prize.

Grace Harman, 18 from Suffolk, working with Suffolk Music and Arts Alumni Trust (SMART) 

For aspiring professional musician, Grace Harman, the support she received from a local music and arts trust has enabled her to pursue her dream career.

As a young trumpet player and pianist in Suffolk, Grace benefitted from development by the Suffolk Music Hub, which is supported by the Suffolk Music and Arts Alumni Trust (SMART). Grace, who is now a trustee at the charity, was given many incredible opportunities, including the chance to tour Spain, Poland and Italy, as well as performing regularly at Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Thanks to development from SMART, Grace has followed her passion for music into further education and is studying at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Grace would like to use funding from the Bright Future Prize to enable SMART to overcome some of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, where music has often been a neglected part of the curriculum. With increased funding, SMART would be able to provide more musical instruments, lessons, orchestras, exams, arts groups and performances for young people. The prize would also allow SMART to provide scholarships and funding to young people who wish to pursue the arts and to start a buddy scheme where valuable skills could be shared.


Ed Chaplin, 19 from Solihull working with BulliesOut

Following a period of severe bullying at school, Ed struggled with a lack of confidence and feelings of helplessness. It was only when Ed discovered the charity, BulliesOut that a process of healing began.

Ed is now a trustee at the charity, which works to make schools and workplaces safer and free from bullying. It also runs information workshops and an e-mentoring service for anyone caught in the cycle of bullying. The Youth Ambassador program at BulliesOut, provides excellent training and opportunities for development. As part of the Youth Ambassador Programme, Ed has run numerous activities, including bake sales, community stalls, workshops for school children and more, all of which have helped to boost Ed’s self-esteem.

Ed believes that the Bright Future Prize would support BulliesOut to develop its Youth Ambassador programme by taking on a new employee to run and manage its work. This would mean that even more people, who are suffering from the effects of bullying, would be supported to find ways to change their lives for the better.


Matt Stevenson and Carter Harrison, 18 from Harrogate with their entrepreneurial project Northern Access Initiative

Matt and Carter would like to use the Bright Future Prize to support a cause close to their hearts – the Northern Access Initiative. The charity, which was set up by the duo, seeks to support and provide mentorship for students from the North, so that they can access places at top universities.

Studies from the Sutton Trust have shown that the percentage of students attending Oxbridge from the North or the Midlands is approximately half that of students from the South. The Northern Access Initiative attempts to bridge this gap, by connecting mentors from top universities to state school students from the North and Midlands, so that they have the resources and support they need to succeed in their applications.

The Bright Future Prize would enable the Northern Access Initiative to expand its outreach dramatically by enabling it to build its own website and online platform, where mentoring can take place. Longer term, the prize would be used to help the charity to improve social mobility for young people in the North. It would also help the charity to build a network, where people who have been mentored can join, become mentors themselves, and network with other young people who have been helped by the program.


Demereece Green, Aaliyah Nesbeth and Ahtasham Akhtar, 16 and 17 years old from Manchester and their project Dawn To The Light

Demereece Green, Aaliyah Nesbeth and Ahtasham Akhtar are passionate about using the power of gaming to help young people care for their mental health. All three of have lived with their own mental health challenges and have seen first-hand the devastating impact that poor mental health can have on young people. In response to these challenges, Demereece, Aaliyah and Ahtasham began searching for new ways to help young people to understand, talk about, and look after their own mental health.

In 2019 they were each selected to take part in a project called The Agency - a youth enterprise project run by Contact Theatre in Manchester. During their time with The Agency, the trio worked together to develop the concept for an online game, Dawn To The Light. The game looks to educate young people about the importance of protecting their mental health and provides in game tools for coping with mental health challenges.

The team would also build a community around the game, providing creative spaces online and offline where young people can discuss mental health. Dawn To The Light reached the final stage of the Agency programme and was awarded £2,000 by a panel of arts and industry experts to help kickstart their initiative.

Funding provided by the Bright Future Prize would mean that Dawn To The Light would be made to a high standard that would make the game appealing to a broad audience. The team would also develop specialist skills and receive training that would enable them to work on subsequent versions of the game. It is hoped that the game would help young people across the country to develop greater awareness of their own mental health needs.


We'll be announcing the winner of the Bright Future Prize in the coming weeks, so look out for updates on our website and across social media.