REMARKABLE students who toiled behind the scenes to better their community and improve the lives of thousands in Thornbury have been recognised for their tremendous efforts.

Around 50 sixth formers, who took part in Castle School’s volunteering programme Castle in the Community, or acted as peer mentors for their fellow classmates were celebrated at an award ceremony last Wednesday.

Members of the charities and many organisations they worked for over the past five months cheered, as they were presented with certificates by Mayor Phyllida Parsloe for their outstanding contribution to their home town.

Sixth form deputy head teacher Dr Kathy Fawcett told the Gazette she was immensely proud of the teenagers.

"Every contribution they’ve made whether big or small has made a difference in the lives of some people," she said.

"We are delighted. They just get such good experience from doing it. They learn time-management skills and reliability."

Castle in the Community was launched last year in partnership with the Thornbury Volunteer Centre.

Pupils involved in the scheme spent two hours every Wednesday afternoon working with charities, including Hammer Out and Age UK, or at the town museum and local primary schools.

Alice Cottle, 18, volunteered at Turnberrie’s and accompanied a group of adults and children with learning difficulties from the centre to the library as part of her placement.

She found the experience so fulfilling she has decided to carry on volunteering at the day centre during the summer holidays.

"I enjoy it so much," said Alice, who hopes to study optometry at university in the autumn.

"It’s the most enriching experience you could possibly have. It’s so rewarding. I would do it again in a heartbeat."

The initiative allowed Kathryn Pratt to hone in her multimedia skills by shooting virtual tour videos for the Thornbury and District Museum.

"Volunteering is good fun," said the 18-year-old. "You get to know the community, you make new friends. It’s nice to see the ladies I work with a smile on their faces."

While some students enjoyed cosy desk jobs, others rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty in the great outdoors.

Kyle Watts, 17, spent the last five months digging, planting and landscaping the Sheiling School grounds.

"It was hard in the winter," he said. "It’s nice to see the effect you can have on people. We didn’t work as closely with children as others did but we could see the effect on the ground."

To get involved with Castle in the Community contact Castle School on 01454 862100 or Thornbury Volunteer Centre on 01454 413392.