Just picture the scene – you’re 16 or 17 years old and you’ve just finished school or college with the whole summer ahead of you. What would you do with your time?
Youngsters are being encouraged to take up a government-backed scheme to improve their social skills and make them more employable in the future.
And it involves spending four weeks having fun, taking part in sporting activities and supporting the local community.
The National Citizen Service (NCS) is the government’s flagship programme to inspire young people to engage in their local community.
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 programme gives youngsters aged 16 and 17 the opportunity to get some experience to put on their CV which can give them a big boost when it comes to applying for university and jobs.
The four-week programme includes a residential week at an outdoor activity centre where they do team building activities such as rock climbing.
They have another residential week in the local community plus two weeks working on a self-designed project involved with a local organisation or charity they want to help.
NCS co-ordinator James Shannon says: ‘The first element of it is that it’s an opportunity to meet new people.
‘They will enjoy a break. It’s an opportunity to relax and have fun as part of the programme.
‘It’s an opportunity for young people to find out about their local community and develop their skills.
‘It’s things they might not have learnt in the classroom environment through school.
‘There are lots of opportunities that are linked to education but not in a classroom environment.
‘In the third and fourth week you can make your mark by working in small groups to form an action project. They are given a free run to come up with that themselves.’
Last year, the projects youngsters took part in ranged from sleeping rough for 48 hours to volunteering to raise money to refurbish Wymering Manor.
During the first week, the youngsters are taken to an activity centre where they take part in activities such as canoeing, kayaking and mountain biking.
James adds: ‘It’s a fun, unique way of standing out on your CV. It gives them an opportunity to have good fun, meet new people while experiencing these new challenges. All workshops can go towards your CV and it can look good on Ucas applications.
‘It’s a very easy opportunity for them to show what they have done off their own back. It’s something that they put themselves forward to do.
‘It’s a different way of saying “I give back something to my community”.’
And James says it is a big confidence booster for the children too.
‘They go into an environment where everyone is in the same boat together,’ he adds.
‘A few of these guys don’t know anyone. But by the end of it they are speaking to everyone and challenging themselves.
‘Whether you’re the most confident individual or if you’re quite shy, everyone is doing the same thing.
‘It gives them the platform to challenge themselves and bring out their own confidence.
‘It’s been described as a rite of passage from school to the adult world.’
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
There are 135 places available for all schools and colleges throughout Portsmouth, Havant and Waterlooville.
Students in Year 11 and their first year of college or sixth form are invited to take part.
Open evenings will take place at the Pompey Study Centre tonight and on Wednesday, April 23 from 5pm until 7pm.
You need to be 16 or 17 to apply and must be available for a four week period in July.
Dates of the programme are:
· Monday, July 7 to Friday, August 1
· Monday, July 14 to Friday, August 8
· Monday, July 21 to Friday, August 15
The programme runs for four weeks, Monday to Friday, based around:
· Week 1 - A week at Land & Wave in Dorset taking part in outdoor residential activities.
· Week 2 - A week of skills development on a residential based in the Portsmouth area.
· Week 3 - Project planning, fundraising and training opportunities.
· Week 4 - Time to deliver your social action projects into the local community.
There is a small sign up fee of £35 which covers your deposit for residential bookings as spaces are limited.
All other fees are funded which includes activities, meals and overnight stays across the four week period.
Visit pompeyitc.org.uk to find out more.
Katie Aris, 17, from Anchorage Park
‘I thought it would be a good opportunity to do it. I knew about it because James came to my school to promote it.
‘When I finished school I didn’t think I would be doing anything else.
‘It was really good, I absolutely loved it.
‘The more you put in, the more you get out of it. ‘There are so many opportunities that come from it. You meet lots of new people. It improves your confidence a lot - it’s a massive confidence booster.
‘This summer I will be a mentor helping out people who are doing it this year.’
Daniel Williamson, 16, from Copnor
‘I wasn’t planning on doing the course itself until I got a phone call from James. I was only going to do it for a week and I enjoyed it that much that I stayed for all four weeks.
‘I didn’t know I would like it this much.
‘I have got so many opportunities and met so many new people out of it.
‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
‘If you get it on your CV employers will know what it is because it’s voluntary work.’
Jack Rabone, 18, from Tipner
‘It was really good. I learnt a lot from it. It built my confidence up.
‘I was really scared to talk to people and share my views with others. From when I joined I have grown as a person.
‘I heard about it on the radio and just thought I would do it. I was just hoping to gain more confidence, to talk to people and get myself out there.
‘I would say to anyone just go for it and take a risk - it’s worth it.’
April Leigh, 17, from Fratton
‘I knew it was a good opportunity to gain different experiences and I wanted to do it to help my confidence.
‘It was amazing. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had.
‘Many young people should take part in it.
‘It looks great on your CV and there are different things you can say you have done.
‘If you have got the chance, take it. You only get to do it once.’