Footballers and activists top list of young people’s role models.
Sports stars, doctors and nurses, teachers, campaigners and Youtubers are all sources of inspiration for young people, but only 1 in 5 see good role models amongst politicians.
Marcus Rashford is the top role model for young people according to research by national mentoring and education charity ReachOut.
The Manchester United and England star was the most mentioned role model in a survey of young people aged 8-16 taking part in after-school mentoring programmes across Greater Manchester, Liverpool and London.
Other names in the top ten most mentioned were fellow footballers Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, education activist Malala Yousafzai, civil rights icons Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr, social media influencer MrBeast, former US First Lady Michelle Obama, actress Jenna Ortega and singer Ariana Grande.
Over two-thirds (71%) of the young people ReachOut surveyed felt that young people had enough positive adult role models to look up to. When asked where they saw good role models, the top areas chosen were sports stars (65%), doctors and nurses (65%), teachers and school staff (64%) and TV and film stars (58%). Only 1 in 5 (22%) said they saw good role models among politicians. 41% said that they saw positive role models in their local community.
ReachOut, which celebrates its 20th Anniversary as a charity this year, pairs adult mentors with young people in schools across under-resourced areas of Greater Manchester, Liverpool and London. Young people are referred to ReachOut by schools to take part in an annual programme of mentoring and group activities, with weekly sessions that focus on confidence and character development as well as support with English and Maths. 80% of the young people surveyed said that they saw positive role models amongst their ReachOut adult mentors.
Young people were also asked what it was that makes someone a positive role model, with the most frequently mentioned traits being kindness followed by being inspiring, having good character, helping others and being successful in their chosen field. “Role models are responsible, and they help other people,” said one young person in Year 6, “they encourage other people to be brave and are not scared to show their true self.”
Joy Upchurch, Head of Programmes at ReachOut said: “It’s fantastic to see that many of the young people we work with feel that they have positive adult role models they can look up to amongst our sports stars, healthcare professionals, teachers and other walks of life. Having a mentor can be a transformative experience for a young person and bringing an additional role model into their day-to-day life can help them to navigate the challenges they face. It really speaks to the character of the young people ReachOut supports that they chose traits such as kindness and helping others as key to being someone to look up to.”