From left, students who took part in the National Citizen Service, Sam Rawlinson, Callum Lilley and Hannah Clarke with Claire Tillman, of Community Action IW. Picture by Peter Boam.
WIGHT LIVING OK — it’s the summer break, you are 16 or 17 and already, you’re bored senseless.
After all, there’s only so much time you can spend hanging around aimlessly with your mates, playing your X-Box or cluttering-up town centres (almost guaranteed at some point to generate disapproving glances from the older generation).
And it’s not as if you can even join your older siblings down the pub for a drink or go out clubbing.
However, this year’s long summer break has been significantly different for a group of 38 Island youngsters.
They have got off their sofas and taken part in the government’s National Citizen Service initiative, a life-changing scheme that aims to give young people something to do in the great outdoors, and put something back into their local communities at the same time.
The scheme was the brainchild of no less a person than Prime Minister David Cameron who was inspired by a similar project from his young adulthood at Eton public school.
And the project has been universally praised by the Island youngsters who have taken part.
Young people from all the Island’s state secondary schools, including Medina College, Newport, Christ the King College, Carisbrooke, Cowes Enterprise College, Ryde Academy, Sandown Bay Academy, St George’s School, Newport, and the IW College took part in the scheme.
After they were recruited at their schools, youngsters were taken on a team-building exercise at the Marwell Outdoor Activity Centre near Eastleigh, Hampshire.
Here, they rode on zip wires, paddled canoes, clambered over obstacle courses and generally had an extraordinary time before they were split into groups, each with a young leader from the IW and sent out into the Island community to do voluntary work.
The idea was that the young people would gain in confidence, learn about voluntary work other people did on Island, and then get stuck in themselves completing voluntary projects.
The scheme was administered on the Island by Community Action IW (formerly the IW Rural Community Council) and the IW Council.
Claire Tillman, from Community Action, said: "The idea of the scheme is to engage teenagers in their local community, getting them involved in projects and getting them to understand the voluntary sector.
"They have all enjoyed it and the feedback from the kids has been brilliant. They have got to see jobs and opportunities they would not routinely see and they really enjoyed that."
The 38 young people took part in a total of four projects over the summer. One group undertook environmental tasks with the Hampshire and IW Wildlife Trust, one group went to Wight Island Radio, another undertook voluntary work at the Riverside Centre, Newport, and the fourth helped the IW New Carnival Company with its preparations for Sandown Illuminated Carnival.
And to celebrate their commitment to the scheme, the youngsters were all presented with certificates signed by David Cameron, at a ceremony at Quay Arts.
One youngster who took part in the scheme was 17-year-old Hannah Clarke, of Edward Street, Ryde.
Hannah, who is studying engineering at the IW College, said: "I was already volunteering when I decided to take part. We went to Marwell Activities Centre and did a lot of bonding with other people of our own age.
"We jumped out of trees, we did a zip wire, go-karting, assault courses and and kayaking."
Once the induction process was over, Hannah joined up with other members of the group and visited various organisations on the IW, including Bembridge RNLI Lifeboat, Fort Victoria in Freshwater, the Pan Partnership and Quay Arts.
She added: "We learned about our community and what goes on. After that, we all got assigned to a community project. I was part of the group doing a radio show.
"It was really exciting and really nice to do something you would not normally know how to get involved with and I found I really enjoyed it.
"I was really shy, but I enjoyed the experience and came out of myself.
"I feel confident and feel I can face the challenges ahead, and it is good to put on my CV that I am willing to put myself out and give my time to do something to help other people."
Another teenager to thoroughly enjoy his time was Christ the King College sixth-former, 16-year-old Sam Rawlinson, of Wilver Road, Newport.
A self-confessed 'adrenalin junkie’, Sam said how much he liked the outdoor activities at Marwell. He said : "I liked the rock climbing and everything to with the outdoor activities. I enjoyed it because I have not used proper equipment before"
Sam was one of a group of volunteers who designed and painted three murals at the Riverside Centre, Newport.
He is currently studying for A/S-levels and hopes to become an aerospace engineer.
He said: "Originally, I thought the IW was pretty bland and did not do much for its community but now I can see there are a lot of people who are willing to help out. I got on well with my team. I met people who were similar to me. It has definitely given me confidence."
Callum Lilley, 16, a sixth form pupil at St George’s School, Newport, lives in The Broadway, Sandown.
He said he had learned to be more independent and acquired fresh skills from the activities, and taking part in the preparations for the Sandown Illuminated Carnival.
He said: "It was really interesting. We had four days of making costumes. It has given me confidence. It will look good on my CV. I have worked with other kids and also the community. It has really helped me."
The government’s Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, said: "The young people I have seen successfully completing National Citizen Service never fail to impress me. They have shown they have the drive and determination to make the most of their time, both for their own benefit and the benefit of their communities.
"Graduates of National Citizen Service have developed the skills, values and confidence that will allow them to move into adulthood with success and happiness. I’ve met NCS participants from all over the country and time and time again I am struck by the very real and positive impact they are making."