A TOP Stafford cop has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's New Year's honours lists for his work with young people.PC Andy Whitehall, a married father of two from Stone, was named for his work as the driving force behind the Right Stuff Project, a boxing programme providing a positive focus for hundreds of young people in Stafford, Stone, Penkridge and across Staffordshire.
“It’s a real privilege and honour to receive this award," said Andy, who works as part of the Safer Stronger Communities Team based in Stafford, giving up much of his own time to coach at the boxing clubs.
"Young people are often portrayed in a negative way and whilst some kids can unfortunately go off the rails, I’m constantly amazed by the youngsters I get to work with.
“Right Stuff boxing clubs give them a purpose, focus, coaching and mentoring and can transform and develop young people into positive role models for their peers.”
As well as boxing lessons and the opportunity to gain coaching qualifications, club members sign up to a voluntary good behaviour contract and agree to take part in community projects like litter picking, gardening and taking food parcels to the elderly.
The Right Stuff is open to all young people, but referrals from social services, youth offending teams, parent support workers and education welfare officers are important.
Some adult offenders are also referred to the scheme with many going on to become positive role models for young people.
The project is supported and sustained through the invaluable contribution of adult volunteers.
Staffordshire Police Chief Constable Mike Cunningham said: “Andy’s award is richly deserved and it’s not an exaggeration to say that his influence has been life-changing for some young people.
"He’s an outstanding officer who gives up a massive amount of his own time to work with youngsters," he said. "His boxing clubs are great places for young people to go to so they can channel their energies into positive activity.
"This can also help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour problems for local residents and businesses.” Mr Cunningham said the clubs also taught young people about good citizenship and how they could contribute positively to their communities.
"Andy’s work is a great example of how innovative thinking, personal passion and commitment can make a big difference and solve community problems.”
Andy runs two after-school clubs in his own time every week at Walton Priory Middle School in Stone and Sir Graham Balfour High School in Stafford as well as organising a Saturday morning all-female coaching session in Stafford.
In 2011, The Right Stuff celebrated Staffordshire's first ever national female boxing champion, when 16-year-old Sophie Stewart from Yarnfield won the National Amateur Boxing Association Flyweight Championship.
Sophie has been with the Right Stuff for three years and has carried out over 400 hour’s community volunteering.
In September 2009, Andy received a national award for his work from The British Boxing Board of Control, the national governing body for professional boxing.