A CLACKMANNANSHIRE pupil last month met Princess Anne as he graduated from a social enterprise's leadership programme.

Luke Sutherland, met the Princess Royal at Blair Estate in Dalry as one of those graduating from Columba 1400's Young People's Leadership Academy.

He spoke to Princess Anne, patron of the social enterprise and charity which seeks to ensure young people can flourish while working with local authorities to instigate change in education, about the positive impact of the programme.

Columba 1400 runs values-based leadership academies, not just for young people but also for educators and families, to help young people and the adults unlock their inner strength so they can transform their lives, make a difference to their community and become the change they want to see in the world.

Luke was one of 300 young people in Scotland, including 26 in total from the Wee County, to take part in academies during 2021-22.

An external evaluation of the ongoing work shows the impact the academies are having.

According to McKinlay Consulting, 93 per cent of participants agreed that their confidence has increased, 85 per cent reported increased self-esteem while 89 per cent believed their leadership skills have improved.

The same believed their resilience has improved while 85 per cent felt encouraged to take on a greater leadership role in school or in the community.

And 73 per cent agreed that the experience helped them achieve positive change in their school.

Liam Stewart, head of partnerships at Columba 1400, said: "After the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, I am beyond delighted to see such positive outcomes.

"The biggest reward of my role is seeing these amazing young people open up, speak out and start to believe in themselves and what they can achieve.

"I look forward to welcoming even more young people to our academies over the coming years as we expand our work."

The Young Leadership Academy in particular offers young people a safe space to discover their values, which provide a framework for them to make positive personal, career and life choices.

The charity's goals are closely aligned with the Scottish Government's aim to close the poverty related attainment gap – giving graduates equal opportunities for a bright, fulfilling future whatever their circumstances.

Since 2000, more than 12,000 young people and their key adults have taken part in Columba 1400's academies, which have often proved to be an important turning point in their lives.

Visit columba1400.com for more details.