Hundreds of students in 1066 country have been taking part in a government scheme to develop new skills and help the community over the past four weeks.
The National Citizen Service programme has seen groups of 16-year-olds experience going to university, enjoying a residential and organising a charity event.
Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd visited some of the participants at the Hastings Centre to congratulate them on their success on Friday (August 12).
The Home Secretary has been supporting the scheme since its inception in 2011 and believed it would continue for years to come thanks to the impression she got of the students.
“I feel really confident that this is something that’s going to be built on each year and the fact these people who’ve been through it are going to tell everybody else, means it will,” she said.
“The government is very keen on this and the problem in the past has been getting people to sign up, unusually it’s a question of getting people to participate in it.
“But now people can see it’s fun and they can see how much they get out of it.”
The students have been split into teams of 15 after volunteering in the government-funded programme through their schools.
The pupils spent the first week learning life skills and completing teamwork challenges, spending a few nights at an outdoor activity centre.
A crash course in how to live away from home followed in the second week as the pupils went to university, learning how to budget, cook, and clean.
The final phase saw the groups come up with their own social action project to help make a difference in the community.
One group raised money for domestic violence charity Refuge with a rally in the town centre and an Olympic-style challenge, making hundreds of pounds for the cause.
Ark Helenswood Academy students Jessica Warburton and Shania Ives said one of the best things they have gained from the programme is all the new friends they have made.
The pair encouraged others to get involved because despite the daunting prospect it has benefitted them both and made the summer that little more special.
“At first it’s quite daunting, it’s four weeks out of your summer, it’s two residential trips away with people you don’t necessarily know, and I was nervous about that,” Jessica said.
“But these guys after the first day became like my family to me.
“So I just think jump in and just have some fun.”
Shania said the programme has changed her own opinion of herself, giving her lots of self-confidence and showing her a whole new perspective, especially through the social action project.
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