I HAVE already spoken this year about the important role our young people play within our communities.

As you will probably know, 2018 has been named the Year of Young People – an opportunity for Scotland to recognise and highlight their achievements, contributions to our communities.

So I am delighted to be able to use my column this week to announce the chieftain for this year’s Gourock Highland Games is Notre Dame High School pupil Rhys McCole.

Rhys is an extraordinary young man.

At just 16, he is already a champion boxer and also a member of the SportScotland and Young Scot’s Young People’s Sports Panel, as well as an ambassador for Inverclyde for the Year of Young People.

All of them are significant achievements in themselves – but are even more remarkable given that Rhys lives with not one, but six disabilities.

His drive, ambition and determination to succeed make him a wonderful choice for chieftain in this Year of Young People and a perfect example to all of what can be achieved despite the difficulties life can present.

The games in May are just one opportunity for us to celebrate our young people and there has been a lot of work – by young people themselves – to come up with a programme of events and activities to showcase their talents and opinions.

These include Inverclyde’s Young Person of the Year Awards, with categories ranging from Young Carer and Young Volunteer to Youth Environmental and Unsung Hero.

Young people are playing an active role exploring issues such as mental health, drugs and alcohol to ultimately offer training and support in the wider community.

Rhys is a shining example of what young people can achieve against the odds and will, I am sure, be a superb chieftain when the Gourock Highland Games get underway in a couple of months time.

Year of Young People 2018 is led by the Scottish Government, working in collaboration with – among others - VisitScotland, EventScotland, Young Scot, Children in Scotland, Scottish Youth Parliament, Creative Scotland and YouthLink Scotland.