Friends for life and experiences that they won’t ever forget...

ON BOARD From left, NCS manager James Shannon, Toby Blackburn, Zak Rose, NCS co-ordinator Lucy Keil and Chanelle Hopkins                                                                     Pictures: Greg Thurtle/TP Photography
ON BOARD From left, NCS manager James Shannon, Toby Blackburn, Zak Rose, NCS co-ordinator Lucy Keil and Chanelle Hopkins Pictures: Greg Thurtle/TP Photography
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Teenagers are being given a chance to spend their summer going on an adventure, improving their social skills and learning how to make themselves more employable.

As a part of a government-backed scheme, youngsters are being encouraged to make the most of their time off by spending four weeks having fun, taking part in sporting activities and supporting the local community as part of the National Citizen Service (NCS) scheme.

Youngsters in the sea

Youngsters in the sea

NCS is the government’s flagship programme to inspire young people to engage in their neighbourhood.

Locally, the programme is run by Pompey in the Community, an independent charitable trust affiliated to Portsmouth Football Club.

It is based at the Pompey Study Centre in Anson Road, next to Fratton Park.

The four-week programme includes a residential week at a Land & Wave outdoor activity centre in Swanage, Dorset, where they do team building activities such as coasteering and rock climbing.

Ben Holmes and Sam Smart after a surfing session at Swanage Beach

Ben Holmes and Sam Smart after a surfing session at Swanage Beach

Participants have another residential week in the local community plus two weeks to make their mark by developing and running local volunteering projects that matter to them.

NCS manager James Shannon says: ‘It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where they get to make a difference.

‘It’s an invitation for young people to find out about the local community and develop their skills – a chance to change their lives and meet new people.’

Throughout the programme participants get the opportunity to meet people from all backgrounds and tackle outdoor challenges as a group.

‘It is a real mixture of people on the programme,’ said James.

‘Since we started running NCS, people have come on their own and with friendship groups.

‘They are then split into groups of 15 who they share a tent with for the first week.

‘A few of these guys don’t know anyone when they come on the programme. But by the end of it they are speaking to everyone.’

By splitting the groups into smaller teams it gives the young people a chance to get to know each other and make friends.

Throughout the scheme they get the chance to learn a range of skills that they won’t be taught in the classroom.

James said: ‘We teach the young people how to budget and cook during the first part of the project.’

In later weeks participants take part in social action projects which involve sports coaching, media, performing arts, woodwork, carpentry and a range of other skills.

Many who have completed the programme have said the skills that they learnt helped with making their CV stand out and that it looks good on Ucas applications to university.

NCS graduate Gina Cooke, from Fratton said: ‘It looks great on your CV and there are different things you can say you have done.’

And James says it is a big confidence booster for the teenagers too.

‘They go into an situation where they are all in the same boat together,’ he said.

‘It gives them the platform to bring out their own confidence.

‘It’s been described as a rite of passage from school to the adult world.’

Adam Gibson, who has completed the course, said: ‘From when I joined I have grown as a person.’

Those who complete the programme at the end of the four weeks are then invited to a ‘graduation’ ceremony to collect a certificate a celebrate their success.

Once the programme is completed Pompey in the Community often ask graduates to return to help them out as advisors and later on staff.

‘We give our young people a chance to come back and support the project,’ said James.

‘In the following summers they are given the opportunity to return and work with the young people who are taking part in the programme to act as a link between the staff and the young people.’

He adds: ‘It’s a way of standing out on your CV.

‘It gives the guys an opportunity to have good fun and meet new people while experiencing new challenges.’

To find out more information about National Citizen Service call (023) 9272 8899 or email

‘I’ve had so many opportunities’

AFTER completing the course two years ago Dan Williamson, 17, from Copnor has progressed to become a staff member.

Dan says: ‘I have got so many opportunities and met so many new people.

‘James came into my school to promote the project and now I go into schools to promote the NCS programme.’

Before the experience, James was not going to do the programme but after getting a call from NCS manager James, Dan decided he was only going to do it for a week. ‘I enjoyed it that much that I stayed for all four weeks,’ said Dan.

For the 17-year-old the course was much more than a chance to have an adventure – it gave him the chance to meet new people. ‘I only knew one person when I went away but now I have a whole new range of friends,’ said Dan.

Through working with local business and social leaders Dan gained skills that he never thought he would achieve.

Dan said: ‘We’re given skills that we might not get out of college or school. I would not have the confidence I do now if it wasn’t for NCS.’

NCS gave Dave a chance to realise what he wanted to do for a career.

‘I am going to the University of Portsmouth to study sports development,’ said Dan.

‘I just loved it...’

Eighteen-year-old Katie Aris was unsure what she was going to do when she finished school but NCS gave her an opportunity.

‘I was the last person to sign on as I was quite reluctant to join,’ she said. ‘I didn’t think it was for me but I loved it.’

Throughout the four weeks Katie learned a number of skills including budgeting and rock climbing but the most important ability she gained was confidence.

‘I was so shy before I joined the programme and would not be able to sit and talk to people but NCS helped me improve my confidence,’ said Katie.

Now Katie works with NCS to promote the programme.

She said: ‘With Pompey in the Community I have been going into schools and speaking to young people about why they should sign up.’

She credits NCS for changing her life. ‘You have to make the most out of it,’ she said.

‘The more you put in, the more you get out.’

Book a spot

Pompey in the Community has 50 places left on this summer’s programme from its 225 original spots.

The places are available for young people aged 16 and 17 years old in schools throughout Portsmouth, Havant and Waterlooville.

Students in Year 11 and their first year of college or sixth form are invited to take 

Those who apply must be available in July.

Dates of the programme are:

- Monday, June 29 - Friday, July 24

- Monday, July 6 - Friday, July 31

- Monday, July 13 - Friday, August 7

- Monday, July 20 - Friday, August 14

- Monday, July 27 - Friday, August 21

There is a signing-up fee of £35 which covers a deposit for residential bookings as spaces are limited.

Bursaries are available for those who qualify for them.

All other fees are funded which includes activities, meals and overnight stays across the four weeks.