Jake McCandless has a Royal appointment after being named St John Ambulance’s Regional Cadet of the Year at the health and first aid charity’s annual competition.

Jake, in Year 11, was one of 34 young people vying for the title during the national event, at Sedgebrook Hall in Northamptonshire, over the weekend of February 21 to 23.

Jake said: “I’m in shock – I can’t believe I won. It’s been such an amazing weekend and I’m lucky to have spent it with such an incredible group of people. This opportunity is something I never thought I would have.”

From presentations and interviews, to group discussions and tasks Jake and his fellow Cadets underwent a rigorous set of challenges.

Jake’s first aid skills were among those tested during Cadet of the Year and he has already put them to good use on many occasions, including helping a casualty with a dislocated knee while out on duty. As well as the first aid-focused activities of a Cadet, Jake, who is already a Sergeant at the Derby City Cadet unit after only joining St John just over a year ago, enjoys working with the adult volunteers and his fellow Cadets to whom he teaches first aid and demonstrates what it means to be a St John Cadet. He has already given more than 300 hours of volunteering time to the charity.

Jake is currently studying for his GCSEs with us and has set his sights on a career as a paramedic – a role that he has already started training for. In order to assist with achieving this ambition he attended a work experience week with WMAS for aspiring paramedics. He is also a very keen photographer and videographer, often making promotional videos for school.

During the past academic year, he was nominated for, and awarded, the ‘McConnell’s award for consistent high standards in art and design’; the ‘Thomas Dakin Trophy for contribution to Senior School life, and in recognition for being a role model for others’; and the School Work Experience Prize for outstanding feedback from his employer during the work experience week.

“Our Cadet of the Year competition is always a highlight and this year’s event has reassured me that our charity’s future is very bright; huge congratulations to Jake for his success,” said St John Ambulance’s Chief Commissioner, Ann Cable, who led the team of assessors putting the Cadets through their paces and joined Surgeon Rear Admiral Lionel Jarvis, CBE DL, Prior of the Priory of England and the Islands of the Order of St John, to present the awards.

Ann added: “Jake is a smart, confident Cadet who is proud of all that our charity does. I know he will be a super Regional Cadet of the Year for the East, as well as being a great member of the national team.”

Jake and his fellow Cadets of the Year will now represent St John Ambulance at ceremonial occasions throughout 2020, including the St John’s Day event at St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday June 20.

And they will meet HRH The Princess Royal – the charity’s Commandant in Chief, Youth – at the annual Young Achievers reception, later in the year.

The Cadets also have a key role in making sure the voices of young volunteers are heard at the highest level in St John.

St John’s chief executive, Martin Houghton-Brown said: “What an inspiring group of young people – all focused on the difference they can make in their communities.

“Each of the Cadets demonstrated how being a member of the St John family has helped them gain confidence, plus the courage to act in times of crisis.

“I am proud of them all and look forward to working with them.”

The charity has exciting plans to improve, extend and invest in its offer to 7- to 25-year-olds via its Badger (7 to 10) and Cadet (11 to 17) programmes and university groups, plus new projects over the next three years.