THE search for Darlington's brightest young achievers began in earnest yesterday with the launch of The Northern Echo's Positive Young People Awards, powered by npower.

This year's awards ceremony will take place at Darlington's Civic Theatre on Wednesday, April 2, when a host of youngsters will be honoured for their achievements.

The event, organised in conjunction with Peer Support 2000 (PS2K), Darlington Partnership, Darlington Borough Council and Stagecoach Theatre Arts, is aimed at promoting the efforts of young people.

Last year, Pop Idol contestant Zoe Birkett, 17, became the first recipient of the award.

"What we are hoping for is for young people in Darlington to get recognition for the work that they do," said Martin Webster, from PS2K.

"Nominations for the awards can be for anything, such as a young person who has worked for the community, overcome an illness or simply helped out at school."

Young people nominated for a PYP award must have given their time voluntarily and be either under 18 or under 13 on April 25.

They can be nominated in the following categories: Contribution to the Community, under-12s and under-18s; Outstanding Achievements, under-12s and under-18s; and Against All Odds, under-12s and under-18s, which is for youngsters who have overcome adverse personal circumstances.

Gary Doig, npower's northern community relations officer, said: "We do a lot of work in the community, which is why we are sponsoring these awards. We feel sure they are going to be a resounding success."

The awards ceremony will feature performances from children members of Stagecoach Theatre Arts.

Peter Barron, editor of The Northern Echo, which is supporting the awards said: "Too often, the headlines are dominated by bad news involving the younger generation, but there are plenty of youngsters who can be proud of their achievements. If you know a young person who deserves to be honoured, make sure they don't miss out."