Nov 11 2011 by Stuart Wilson, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
AN Ayrshire lad has been named as Scotland’s student of the year.
The prestigious award, handed out by Sky Sports, aims to celebrate youngsters who use sport to improve their personal skills.
And proud Mark Ferguson, who attends Daldorch House School in Catrine, stood out as a clear winner among nominations from across the country.
Judges felt his story demonstrated how sports projects can be used to develop social and communication skills and well as incorporating physical activity.
With the help of Sky Sports Living for Sport, Daldorch devised a project for Mark and a fellow pupil, to challenge their abilities both physically and mentally.
Mark, who has autism, finds communication difficult and struggles to adapt to social situations so a task with a high degree of structure was decided to be appropriate.
The boys were set increasingly difficult challenges, and tackled walks to increase their stamina before reaching a final objective of climbing Cairn Table, a 2000ft stark moorland hill.
They increased their strength and learned skills that were totally new to them, including packing their rucksack, planning rest breaks and preparing their own lunch.
Mark completed each stage of the task and was presentenced with a certificated by Sky Sports Living for Sport Athlete mentor, Steve Frew.
Mark will now join 11 other regional finalists at a UK awards ceremony at Wembley Stadium on January 19 in a bid to be crowned national champ.
Ian Blondin, principal teacher at Daldorch, said: “Mark has shown great pride in what he has achieved.
“He accepts more responsibility and has significantly increased in self-esteem.
“He has developed new relationships, and is more tolerant of others.
“We are extremely proud of his progress and are delighted he has been awarded this title.”
Suzanne Jones, depute unit manager at Daldorch, added: “Mark enjoyed taking part in Sky Sports for Life and all his family, young people and staff at Daldorch House School are very proud of Mark for achieveing this award.”
As a regional winner, Mark receives a £50 Adidas voucher, £500 towards his school’s next Sky Sports Living for Sport project, the chance to be interviewed by a Sky Sports film crew and an additional visit from an athlete mentor.