THIRTEEN-year-old Sophie Hunt from Okehampton College has been elected to the West Devon and Torridge Constituency of the UK Youth Parliament. Sophie will be acting as a Shadow Councillor over the next year, sitting in on meetings at County Hall and liaising between the area's county councillors and its children. 'It's all about giving young people a bigger voice — and I've got a very loud voice,' she said. The UK Youth Parliament was established in 1999. It aims to represent the views of young people aged 11 to 18 to adult councils, regional assemblies, and national government. Each Local Education Authority (LEA) represents a UKYP constituency, and currently around 90% of the LEAs in England are represented on the UKYP. Sophie explained her job was to 'help the council make decisions that affect young people'. 'I'm especially interested in improving public transport. 'The last bus back from Exeter, for example, leaves far too early for young people to be able to go to events there in the evening. 'And it would be great to provide special bus services around the villages to make it easier for children to go to shows at the new cinema in Okehampton,' she said. Sophie is also concerned to stamp out bullying and to improve sports facilities for children in the Okehampton area. And she'd like to see more youth cafes set up too, as safe meeting places for the under-18s. 'The one in Okehampton is so popular it's really over-piled sometimes,' she said. Sophie first heard about the UK Youth Parliament last Autumn through the Okehampton girls' group GAL: 'the first thing I had to do was to write a manifesto saying what my main ideas were, and then we had elections in January.' Faced with the choice between applying to become a member of the Youth Parliament or a Shadow Councillor, Sophie chose the latter. She said: 'The MYPs deal with national issues, but the Shadow Executive deals with local issues, so you get to see more immediate results from your work.' The UK Youth Parliament is not all about work. One highlight for Sophie has been a fun team-building weekend at Pixie's Holt — and she is very keen on the free hoodie she got from sitting in on Unicef meetings! MYPs and Shadow Councillors are all elected locally and serve for a year. The next round of elections will start this Autumn. Sophie said that she would be able to guide anyone interested in applying through the process. 'I'd definitely encourage people to get involved,' she said. 'Lots of people don't seem to know about it, but it's really good fun and interesting. I'm learning a lot from it.' For more information on the Shadow Executive and the UK Youth Parliament email [email protected]">[email protected] or visit the website of the Devon constituency on">