Norfolk teenagers vote in 'general election'
Rob GarrattHundreds of young people in Norwich are marking an X in the box as they vote on who will represent them in the nation's Youth Parliament.After the votes are counted the city - and the rest of Norfolk - will have a new batch of MYPs (Members of the Youth Parliament) tasked with hearing the views of the region's youngsters and taking them to the powers that be.Rob Garratt
Hundreds of young people in Norwich are marking an X in the box as they vote on who will represent them in the nation's Youth Parliament.
After the votes are counted the city - and the rest of Norfolk - will have a new batch of MYPs (Members of the Youth Parliament) tasked with hearing the views of the region's youngsters and taking them to the powers that be.
The Norfolk elections are even one step ahead of their full parliamentary counterparts; nine new MYPs will be elected to occupy the county's redrawn constituency boundaries, which will not come into force until this year's general election.
Votes have been cast today in 39 locations across the county, with polling booths set up in schools, colleges, Connexions Centres and youth clubs.
Anyone between 11 and 18 can have a say on who will represent them for the next two years. The elected MYPs, who will be revealed on February 12, will go on to meet regularly, working with councillors, MPs and other organisations.
Jacob Rix became one of the youngest people to sit on an official government board when he took part in a review into sex and relationship education in schools last year.
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The 17-year-old Paston College student, who will be giving up his North Norfolk seat, was also among the first non-MPs to debate in the House of Commons in the landmark Youth Parliament sitting last year.
Jacob, of Sheringham, also helped with the successful rebranding Norfolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team and lobbied Norfolk County Council for better transport for young people.
He said: 'It's been really exciting but quite demanding at the same time, and debating in the Commons was a great privilege.
'I've had a real influence on the area - it gives you a chance to address all the problems you've been thinking about in the back of your mind, and gives you an important chance at bringing about change.'
The achievements of the current MYPs include working with local policing teams, councils, setting up a youth council in Norwich North and shadowing their MP counterparts.
They were also among the first non-MPs to debate in the Houses of Commons last year, and have hosted debates and surgeries in their local region to try and bring youth issues to light.
Sally Palmer, Youth Parliament East of England coordinator, said: 'MYPs get involved as much as they want to do and can take on areas that are important to them and their constituency.
'The Youth Parliament raises the profile of young people in a positive way and helps them to take part in the democratic process. It gives MYPs a chance to have a voice in their area and look at the services they are offered, an opportunity to inform the adults what they want and grow confidence and skills.'
t Do you know a young person making a difference in the community? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org