• Teenage boss: Luke Lancaster interview

Luke Lancaster is currently in the middle of his A-levels – and has also been running a national charity for the past six years

Luke Lancaster is the founder and CEO of Young Pioneers, a charitable organisation that aims to train up young people so they can pass on key skills to their peers. He’s been running his charity for six years yet, remarkably, is just 17 years old

The Student Room caught up with Luke to find out what it’s like to be running a successful charity when you’re still at school.

What originally inspired you to set up this charity?
When I was 11 years old, I was attacked by four boys when I told the teacher I wanted to learn. My first reaction to being bullied was that I wanted to do something about it. My aim became the creation of a training program that helped not only vulnerable young people but also the bullies - giving them the skills to get back into education and engage back into society. When I started Young Pioneers, there were no programs I could go on to get the skills I needed. I wanted to design education programs that give young people the hard skills to overcome adversity. Today, we've trained over 6,000 young people

How were you affected by your own experience of bullying?
When it happened, the school wanted to take me out, saying it wasn't safe. My answer to that was 'No, I want to stay'. I stayed in the school where I was bullied for the full five years to prove that a young person could go through that and be something and do something at the end of it We actually trained a group of the young people who bullied me. They went back into primary schools with me and trained a group of year six children who were making the transition from primary to secondary school.

What kind of projects is the charity involved in?
One of our key projects is called Be Healthy. Among boys under the age of 19, 22% are overweight and obese; the figure is 33% for girls. With our Be Healthy program, we're giving young people the skills to tackle childhood obesity. The program works mainly around Be Healthy MOTs, based on a simple traffic light system. Red you need to take action, amber you're taking risks and you need to think about taking action and green you're safe and healthy. We look at core areas including healthy eating, stress management and how to take exercise.

What is the ultimate aim of Young Pioneers?

My ultimate aim is to have a foundation which helps young people around the world to become agents of change, tomorrow's leaders. To help them come up with an idea but also to give them the skills to implement that idea. I want the next charity leaders and business leaders to say ‘I remember when I went on my Young Pioneers Tomorrow’s Leaders course - that's my aim.

How have you balanced this work with your own schooling?
I've always had a passion for not only my education but my charity as well. I always do extra catch-up work for school and college. I've just done my first year of college – I did all my catch-up work at weekends and at nights. I usually do 60 hours charity and 40 hours college work each week. Free time is few and far between but it's all worth it. The work I do for my charity outweighs the need for free time.

Do you feel like you have missed out on being a child?
That’s true, but not being a kid doesn't really matter to me. Is it more important to be a kid or to give other kids opportunity? For me that's what it's been about. Not being a kid is fine by me - training 6,000 young people and giving them the opportunity to be kids is far more important.

What kind of reaction do you get from people to your age?
Being a child and not being taken seriously has been my biggest challenge. When I first started, it was very hard being a child in an adult's world. Adults would say 'You're 11 years old, you’re not going to be able to do this, it's not going to work’. And so you don't have to be as good as an adult, you have to be better. But we've got past that and have broken down barriers that we thought would be harder to break down.

Your charity’s Be Healthy project is up for a National Lottery Good Causes award. Tell us about that.
The awareness created by being involved with the Lottery Good Causes award is important to us. It's about being able to show 7 million people that childhood obesity is a risk and young people are doing something about it.

Find out more about the Young Pioneers Be Healthy project on the National Lottery Good Causes website

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