Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, turned ‘Dragon’ as he judged local teenagers’ community project pitches. The teenagers are currently planning social action as part of National Citizen Service (NCS) and will be delivering their projects across Stockton next week.
NCS is the country’s fastest growing youth movement. Running during the school holidays, NCS enables 16 and 17 year olds to improve their local communities, whilst building new skills and experiences. Sitting on the Dragons’ Den panel, alongside NCS North East Contract Director Kim Smith, NCS Engagement Officer Becky Porter and NCS graduates Sobia Yakub and Elisha Kaur, Alex heard from teams about their plans to ‘change Stockton-on-Tees’ this summer.
Meeting at Ragworth Community Centre, teenagers pitched their ideas to the panel, which included projects on mental health, cystic fibrosis awareness and plans to support elderly residents at a local care home.
Alex praised the participants for their plans, saying:
“This is an excellent initiative by the National Citizen Service (NCS), and I was delighted to be asked to be involved with the day. I have a particular passion for education and the development of young people, so this truly was an event I was really excited about.
“I loved being a Dragon for the day, and happy to have contributed how I could. I look forward to seeing the plans that NCS have for the future.”
Alex then chaired a focus group of participants to find out more about their experiences of NCS. Discussions included how the programme has helped nurture skills and boost university and job prospects.
Kameron Spence, 16 of Egglescliffe School, said:
“NCS gives you something to do, something to enjoy, to start summer on a good note. I feel like I’ve learned a lot of leadership skills and how to work in a team.”
St Patrick’s Catholic College leaver, George Simpkins, has ambitions to study law at university. The 16 year old said:
“NCS will help me because it is UCAS recognised – I could now stand up and talk more confidently.”
Finola Barron, 16 and a student at Our Lady & St Bede Catholic Academy, said:
“It really boosted my self-confidence and communication skills, so I feel like I’ll be better in an interview.”
The next NCS programme will be taking place during the autumn half-term and is open to 16 and 17 year olds who will be in year 12 or 13. Teens will get a chance to experience adventure in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales or Scottish borders and meet new friends before returning home to deliver a community project that makes a lasting impact on the local area.
NCS will never cost any young person more than £50 including food, transport and accommodation for the time away. Young people eligible for free school meals qualify for a bursary and can take part for £10 or less.
Parents or teens should visit NCSYES.co.uk or call 0191 247 4020 to express an interest.
For further information, please contact Alex’s office on 020 7219 7157