Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 12.03.10The annual, national ‘Make Your Mark’ campaign gathers votes cast by young people (11-18) at schools, colleges and youth organisations across the country, to decide the topics for debate at the 2015/16 UK Youth Parliament.

In Sunderland last year 7,905 young people took part in the ballot, which is also used to help decide which issues will be raised at the annual ‘Young People’s State of the City debate’ held in the council chamber.

To help launch this year’s vote in the city which is open until Friday 9 October, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Pat Smith, visited this week’s regular session of the Sunderland Youth Parliament.

The votes will be counted on Monday 12 October, with the issues listed on the ballot paper which receive the most going forward for national and local debate.

The ballot is organised by local authorities and their respective Youth Parliaments on behalf of the British Youth Council, with all concerned hoping to encourage even more young voters to take part this year’s event. Last year more than a million ​​​young people voted, more than doubling the 470,000 who participated in 2013.

Councillor Smith said: “This is a great opportunity for young people across our city to help set out both the national and local political agenda, by identifying which issues are of most concern and interest to them.

“The ‘Make Your Mark’ campaign is the largest annual consultation of young people in the country, asking their views and opinions on what that they want to see debated and addressed by the UK Youth Parliament.

“The fact that the MYPs are the only other group ever invited into the Debating Chamber at the House of Commons to hold this annual event shows how important a role they can play in influencing future policies.”

Councillor Smith added: “Whatever they decide will also help on a local level, because what young people in Sunderland tell us in the national ballot will help their colleagues at the Sunderland Youth Parliament shape this year’s State of the City debate being held onFriday 27 November.”

​The UK Youth Parliament is made up of more than 300 MYPs (Members of Youth Parliament) who are elected every two years, to represent the views and opinions of young people from cities, towns and communities across England and Wales.

The MYPs convene regularly to discuss issues raised by their constituents, culminating in an annual sitting in the debating chamber of the House of Commons where they are the only other parliamentary/political group invited and allowed to do so.

​This year’s sitting of the UK Youth Parliament at Westminster will be Friday 13 November.

Sunderland’s MYPs are Brian Terry and Luwam Habte who both attend St Robert of Newminster school in Washington, and were elected last year after receiving the majority of votes in the elections held at  schools, colleges and youth organisations across the community.

Luwam Habte MYP,17, from Washington said: “The ‘Make Your Mark’ campaign is a great national event that engages young people in politics and gives us all the chance to shape national and local debate.

“I am looking forward to see what young people, particularly those in Sunderland, believe are the most important issues facing us and joining my colleagues from across the county to debate them at the House of Commons.”

​Her colleague Brian Terry,16, from Chapel Garth added: “I’m looking forward to ‘Make Your Mark’ not just because of the fact that it gives young people a voice in our city, but also the challenge it provides us in generating as much interest as possible in voting.

​​​​“Last year the Sunderland Youth Parliament received the views of a third of young people in the city through the vote. This year we are hoping to increase that figure, and I believe that with our shared enthusiasm we can achieve that given everyone I talk to is so excited and engaged in the process.”

​Anyone aged between 11-18 is eligible to vote with more information available at www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/makeyourmark/  along with advice on how to get involved with the Sunderland and UK Youth Parliament from Sunderland City Council, Children’s Service’s Participation and Engagement Lead, Jane Wheeler at jane.wheeler@sunderland.gov.uk