Over a thousand people flocked to the Waterside Theatre to celebrate the achievements of the county’s young volunteers, at Action4Youth’s annual awards night.
The Aylesbury charity also used their yearly gala, attended by Olympic legend Greg Rutherford and Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow on September 21, to launch the ‘Inspiration Programme’: a new initiative that aims to provide young people with vital life skills, centered around community and society.
The 12 month course, running for the first time this year at two pilot institutions, Aylesbury College and Milton Keynes Academy, aims to help young people develop a better understanding in five key areas: charity, business, arts and culture, health and wellbeing and, police and criminal justice.
Jennifer Cameron, Action4Youth’s chief executive, said: “The idea of the Inspiration Programme is to fill the gaps in existing provision by creating opportunities for young people, through direct and meaningful experiences with unique access to five important elements of our community.
“A crucial aspect of the programme is engaging students in real experiences, and there is an emphasis in getting them out of the classroom and into real-life situations.
“Research shows young people are less effective interpersonal communicators. This programme will help them find out more about themselves, develop self-confidence and learn some very important soft skills.”
The Inspiration Programme, which is accredited by awarding body NCFE, has recruited Marlow business Thomas International to provide psychometric and aptitude testing to participants, to help effectively interpret their progress.
Martin Reed, Chairman at Thomas International, said: “Assessment is about self-esteem and emotional intelligence, and getting information at the hands of the teacher to identify where someone began, what their strengths are, and how we can get the most out of them.”
The launch was just one of the reasons to celebrate for Action4Youth, who also welcomed hundreds of young people who’d taken part in the National Citizen Service, Young Leaders course and Duke of Edinburgh scheme ta glamourous graduation ceremony, sponsored by the National House Building Council.
Olympic gold medalist Greg Rutherford, who is from Bletchley, was on hand to distribute certificates, address the crowd and provide some inspiration, drawing on a troubled start in his own life for which he described his 16-year-old self as “a complete wally.”
Greg told the young people that a dangerous moment spent ‘surfing’ atop a moving car led to the realisation that it was time for a change and that he was hanging out with the wrong crowd.
He said: “At the age that these youngsters are developing, I was doing the complete opposite. I want to tell the people in the world who were like me, and a little mischievous, to not give up hope.
“What Action4Youth do is fantastic. Being from Bucks myself, I’m chuffed to be here, to say a few words and hopefully offer a little inspiration.”
The Rt Hon John Bercow also handed out some awards, to commend the work of those reaching milestones of 10, 20 and 30 years volunteering with youth clubs across Bucks,and gave an impassioned and improvised speech, noting that his words came from ‘the heart as well as the head.’
The MP for Buckingham said: “I’m passionate about opportunities for young people to engage, to become inspired, and to take part in volunteering activities that are fun, stimulating, and provide vital skills.
“Action4Youth, as the facilitator of this, do a wonderful job in putting together really well thought-through programmes from which young people can benefit.”
Although the Speaker made sure the crowd was in high spirits, gesturing to them regularly in order to elicit extra cheers, the loudest shout came when the fundraising total for the National Citizen Service volunteering efforts was revealed: £19,835.48, shared between 11 different charities.
The bulk of the awards were then given to recognise the successful completion of NCS, a four week adventure experience and volunteering programme for young people aged 16 or 17.
Aylesbury Grammar School student Tej, 17, said: “NCS is this new experience where you can try new activities and step outside your comfort zone. You meet new people, and then you stay in touch - it was interactive, inspirational and interesting.”
The charity also tasked three of their young volunteers to officiate the ‘Young Club of the Year Award’, with first place going to Steeple Claydon Youth Club, second to Buckingham Youth Club and third place shared between Animal Antiks and Tool Shed.
Harron Raqib-Nisar, 17, was awarded the Nigel Mobbs Award for his achievements on the Young Leaders scheme, having been nominated and selected by the other young people who had taken part.