STREET dancer, DJ, radio presenter, promoter, volunteer and now Peterborough Youth MP – the next 12 months promise to be a busy time for Kamal Hyman (16), as he told deputy features editor John Baker.
THE well-spoken and snappily-dressed Stanground College student was elected on March 2 in an “X Factor-style” vote at the town hall.
A five-minute speech saw the eight candidates from across the city whittled down to three, before a volley of questions from the floor in a Question Time-style grilling.
Kamal’s pitch for the role highlighted the aspirations of young people, and that the majority have “dreams, drive and ambition”.
It said: “I believe in positivity, I believe in originality, I believe in our generation.
“I believe in becoming an influential figure for young people to show them that no matter what happens in life we can achieve whatever we want!
“As a whole young people are not properly represented by the media and a select few ruin our reputation as a whole. Our generation has dreams, drive and ambition, outstanding talent, and we are a lot more clued up than some adults like to think.”
Kamal’s ambition was realised when he received 58.9 per cent of the 102 votes cast – which came as a surprise.
“I didn’t think I would win because I didn’t have a particular key interest when it came to politics,” he said.
“I was doing it because I wanted to make a change, but I thought there might be other candidates who were better.
“I spoke about myself, my upbringing and my own experiences, so that people could understand where I was coming from, and that I was doing it for what I believed in.
“I didn’t realise how fair it was. It was really official, with a ballot box. I thought it would go to whoever brought the most friends with them – and I only brought five.
“I was astonished when I won, but really excited.”
Kamal believes his two deputies – Jeff Pusey of the Voyager School and Niamh Kingsley of Hampton College – complement him well; Jeff brings a business-oriented approach to the table, and Niamh is experienced in volunteering
The trio have met their counterparts from last year, including outgoing MP Lorna Cartledge, as well as Peterborough City Council leader Marco Cereste and chief executive Gillian Beasley, and Peterborough Youth Council chairman Rhys Franklin.
The common ideal that Lorna, Rhys and Kamal share is to encourage young people to grasp opportunities and portray themselves in a positive light.
Groups like the Unity Peacemakers might help, put together by Jason Horne and Javed Ahmed of Peterborough City Council.
It’s made up of teenagers from Peterborough’s black, white and Asian communities who work together to sort out the cause of social problems – especially those caused by racial tension.
Kamal says he has seen little evidence of racism in the city; it is more lethargy and disillusionment which is tying youngsters down.
He said: “There needs to be more things for people to do, more initiatives and opportunities, and new skills for them to learn.
“A lot of anti-social behaviour is down to boredom, because there is nothing for them to do.
“An example is spray painting, which becomes graffiti, and the council then has to clean it off.”
I asked Kamal if providing youngsters with more opportunities fits in with a struggling economy, and he admitted that it can’t be a one-way street.
“The money will present a lot of difficulties,” he said.
“I was on the panel of the youth bank (A city council initiative giving grants to aspiring youngsters) which offered people a chance to come up with ideas and projects, but we don’t know what budgets will be like in the future.
“If we can get support from local companies and businesses that would be great, but we have got to work with what we have got, and that means young people will have to put the work in as well.
“A lot of people think Peterborough is boring and want to move away when they get older, but we need to create opportunities to give them a reason to stay and be driven.
“There are still a lot of people both inside and outside Peterborough who are not aware of the talent here.”
As well as his trip to London tomorrow, Kamal was due to meet other East of England youth MPs and deputies at a convention in King’s Lynn on Sunday.
He said: “I spoke to Javed a year ago about the youth MP elections, and I said I would come and watch them in 2011.
“I did, I just ended up doing a little bit more than that!”