Debra Forsythe-Conroy column: Helping students to make a difference

Helen Garnham, senior curriculum lead at Harrogate College
Helen Garnham, senior curriculum lead at Harrogate College

Harrogate College has been working with the local delivery partner for the National Citizen Service across North Yorkshire, East Riding and Stockton (Flying Futures CIC- Community Interest Company) to run interactive workshops focussing on a variety of courses, to encourage participation in the National Citizen Service programmes.

The programmes facilitate the opportunity for students aged between 15 and 17 to develop their skills, boost their CV and take themselves out of their comfort zones, by taking on new challenges and meeting new people.

In October 2016, 27 students from Harrogate College joined the scheme allowing them to take on a variety of challenges whilst also gaining important work experience.

Following the success of 2016 intake, the National Citizen Service team have regularly returned to Harrogate College to speak with students, and to attend the college’s successful Careers Fest, to provide more details on how students could further participate in summer programmes. These tend to be longer and include opportunities to travel further. Students could take part in an adventure trip to France, which involves a residential element where young people get the chance to take part in exciting activities, such as rock climbing, canoeing and archery. This is followed by three further phases, which includes living away from home for five days with the rest of the group, in university style accommodation, which in turn further supports the development of life skills, such as cooking, meeting with organisations and important people from the local community to learn about the issues and challenges facing them.

Once students have successfully completed phase two of the programme, there is an expectation that the acquired skills and experience are put into practice for the next stage, which is called “making a difference”. This requires the student agreeing with their group on a social action project that will have an impact on your local community.

The final phase of the programme is the “Graduation”, which is basically a big party to celebrate the achievements both as an individual and as part of a team, whilst also receiving a certificate signed by the Prime Minister.

Once the student has successfully completed and graduated from a National Citizen Service programme, whether autumn or summer, it then further provides the opportunity to become an ambassador for future programmes, which in essence means the student can become a team member helping to run the different phases and looking after a group of young people, having been there and experienced it personally.

The team at Harrogate College are keen to raise awareness of the programmes and attended workshops run by National Citizen Service to find out how they could offer this, for new and returning students.

The National Citizen Service programme offers an abundance of benefits to young people, giving them transferable skills to use in their lives at college. Students who have been involved with a National Citizen Service programme previously have now taken on a Social Action Project, engaging with the local community to make a change for the better.

“The National Citizen Service programmes are a great way for young people to experience different activities that are out of their personal comfort zones. The work Harrogate College are doing to get their students involved in the programme is excellent and the skills learned will only benefit our community,” said Harrogate MP Andrew Jones.

We were delighted to receive this comment which further endorses the importance of this work.

Helen Garnham, senior curriculum leader at Harrogate College, said: “We are currently in discussions with the National Citizen Service regarding some exciting new possibilities for new and returning students for September 2017 - watch this space!”