THE Musselburgh-based Bridges Project for young people has a new chief executive officer (CEO)

Emma Scarcliffe has taken over the job after the death of her “inspirational” mentor John Boyle and has pledged that his legacy will live on.

The Bridges Project, on Bogpark Road, is an independent local charity which works with young people in East Lothian and Midlothian to help them manage the transition from adolescence to young adulthood and life beyond school.

Mrs Scarcliffe stepped into the role on an acting basis after the sudden death of Mr Boyle, who was diagnosed with lung cancer, last year.

She said: “I’ve had many career highlights, including winning a UK-wide award for my innovative work running a project within HMYOI (Her Majesty’s Young Offender Institution), but becoming CEO of Bridges Project definitely tops them all.

“From the moment I started at Bridges Project in 2011, I was completely committed to the organisation. To now be the CEO is really what dreams are made of and I see this as so much more than a career.

“When I start talking about Bridges Project, the amazing young people we work with and the incredible staff team, I can’t stop talking.”

Mrs Scarcliffe started her career with the Department for Work and Pensions before moving on to several voluntary and private sector organisations. Through these posts, she worked with many client groups – from people involved in the criminal justice system to people recovering from substance misuse to people experiencing significant mental health problems.

She said: “As my career progressed, I kept thinking that if I could only work for an organisation that supported younger people, I would be able to provide that early intervention that would hopefully stop this younger generation becoming involved in situations that were so incredibly difficult to come back from.”

Mrs Scarcliffe started her career at the Bridges Project by piloting a transitions service for young people in their senior phase of high school in East Lothian who were at risk of leaving education without a positive destination in place. The service was highly successful and she was soon promoted to transitions coordinator before becoming project manager.

In August last year, Mr Boyle, who had committed his life to the charity since its inception in 1984, suddenly became very ill and was subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer. Three months later, he passed away at St Columba’s Hospice in Edinburgh.

Mrs Scarcliffe said: “Everything just happened so quickly and it was such an emotional time for us all at Bridges Project. One day he was siting opposite me and the next he never returned.

“Jim was such an inspirational man.”

The new chief executive decided to honour Mr Boyle’s memory by nominating him for YouthLink Scotland’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which he won.

She said: “Jim’s wife, Jim’s daughter and myself attended the ceremony.

“It was a brilliant night and a fantastic way to celebrate Jim. It was so emotional when Jim’s wife went up on stage to collect it and there was a standing ovation.”

Following Mr Boyle’s death, Mrs Scarcliffe was appointed acting CEO. As well as the emotional impact of the loss of her friend and mentor, this also meant an increased workload for her.

She said: “It was such a busy time as I was effectively undertaking the manager’s job and chief executive’s job in three days per week as I had returned from maternity leave, initially part-time.

“On top of that, we found out that we had been unsuccessful in some funding bids which meant two services and five staff were at risk and, when we were just getting through everything, Covid-19 happened and I had to adapt all service provision while working from home and looking after my daughter.”

But Mrs Scarcliffe has enjoyed her role so far.

She said: “What I have enjoyed the most is seeing first-hand what unbelievably amazing things young people can achieve.”

She also believes that the challenges of the past year have prepared her for any difficulties ahead and she is confident that Bridges Project will be able to continue to inspire young people.

She said: “Honestly, this past year has been so challenging that I don’t see any major challenges ahead. I am just so incredibly excited to be leading the wonderful staff team into the coming years and I have no doubt in my mind that Jim’s legacy will live on, and Bridges Project will continue to be the fantastic organisation it is for the next 30 years.”