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Sarah Townson receives prestigious High Sheriff of Oxfordshire’s Award 2023

Tuesday 28th March 2023

Technology Projects Officer, Sarah Townson, has received a prestigious High Sheriff of Oxfordshire’s Award 2023, presented at a ceremony on Monday 27 March by Mark Beard, the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire.

Supporting young people from challenged backgrounds

The 2023 Awards, with the theme of “supporting young people from challenged backgrounds”, celebrate those who have made an outstanding contribution to the communities in which they live and work, who have had a high impact on the lives of others over a sustained period of time, and who have been recognised by other people working in the area as inspirational and setting an example for others to follow.

Sarah and High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, Mark Beard, posing with award certificate.

Sarah has been the Technology Projects Officer for The Oxford Trust’s Science Oxford team for six years, and over this time has led and developed numerous technology-based camps, clubs and activities for families and schools in Oxfordshire, with a particular focus on underserved groups, individuals, and communities, and welcoming neurodiversity.

Arti-Techs After School Club

Over the last year Sarah has been instrumental in setting up and developing Arti-Techs After School Club at the Science Oxford Centre for young people, aged 11–14, from underserved areas of Oxfordshire, with varied needs.

The club is a space for young people to build and explore their creativity and technology skills. They work on projects and designs including creative coding, micro:bits, computer-aided design, soldering and circuits, woodworking, film-making with a green screen, stop-motion animation and much more.

In creating this space, she has been a role model and raised aspirations of those attending. She has seen the young people grow in confidence as they progress through the sessions, as well as develop social, problem-solving and practical skills.

Sarah says, “The highlight for me has been seeing the same young people come back week on week, and really growing into themselves in their projects, and becoming more independent, more outgoing, making friends and really working well together. It’s been lovely to see that transformation.”

Arti-Techs After School Club was started with funding from Oxford City Council’s Youth Ambition Grant. It is now funded by The Oxford Trust. The Science and Technology Facilities Council Impact Project is covering the cost of five places and additional resources to support the running of Arti-Techs for the next cycle of clubs.

This support allows the club to be free for young people to attend. It runs at the Science Oxford Centre on Tuesdays from 3.30pm to 5.30pm in term-time. For more information and to apply for a place, see here.

Robot Camp

In the summer of 2022, Sarah also developed and organised a Robot Camp at the Science Oxford Centre, for ages 9–12, which was hugely successful. The week-long camp supported families who were going through difficult times and practically demonstrated to the young people what they can achieve.

A parent of a young person attending the camp said of their son, “He says that it was the best week of his life so far! Having the opportunity to make friends was a real positive step for him. He has spent several years being taught on a 1-to-1 basis and not being socialised with other children. Driving home on the last day, he described the experience of bonding with other young people saying “it ticks a box in my heart”. As a parent, I cannot thank Sarah and Sian enough for giving my son the opportunity to succeed. I would say that he has learned more academically and socially in one week at Science Oxford than he has in his previous eight years of education. Thank you so much!

In addition, Sarah supports the Blackbird Leys-based “Glow Your Own” technology workshops as part of the IF Science and Ideas Festival, bringing people and communities together.

Dedicated to developing young people

Sarah takes the recognition and accolade with the full humility of someone who is truly focused on the young people she works with. She is dedicated to her role in the Science Oxford team at The Oxford Trust and is always looking for ways to inspire the next generation in tech.

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