Today, the Prince of Wales met a group of Sunderland College students during a visit to a National Citizen Service (NCS) project in the city as part of his commitment to Step Up To Serve’s #iwill campaign that promotes participation in youth social action.
The students met Prince Charles in recognition of their commitment and achievements on Catch22’s NCS flagship youth programme in 2014.
He also spoke with local teenagers who were competing in a Dragons’ Den style competition with a difference. Young people from the area were vying to win funding for their social action project, which aims to tackle issues such as raising awareness and funds for health charities and creating a befriending service for elderly people in their community.
His Royal Highness met boxing champion and NCS ambassador, Amir Khan – known as King Khan – who stepped out of the ring and behind a desk to become a Dragon for the day, to show support for the inspirational NCS graduates taking part.
Witnessing teenage community spirit first-hand, The Prince chatted with teenagers who completed the youth programme and were now confidently pitching why the social action project they developed on NCS was worthy of the funding on offer. With the Prince of Wales watching on, the teenagers stood tall in front of Amir Khan and community leaders to explain how they would like to make their mark in their local area. Amir then accompanied His Royal Highness to see a technology lesson for the elderly where NCS graduates in demonstrated how to get online and send a tweet, as part of a youth-led initiative to help tackle loneliness among the elderly.
Open to all 15 – 17 year olds, NCS is a unique two or three week full-time programme focused around fun and discovery, plus 60 hours committed to a community project that benefits both young people and society. Young people experience four sections that focus on personal and social development including leadership, teamwork and communication skills. Over 130,000 teenagers have taken part to date, many of whom continue their social action projects after they graduate from NCS, such as those who competed in the Dragons’ Den today.
The Prince’s visit recognises the significant commitment of NCS graduates, who have collectively given over three million hours to their communities. Despite false stereotypes, they are part of the most socially minded generation – earning the title ‘Generation Citizen’ – with 40% of 10-20 year olds currently engaged in meaningful social action. For the second year running, young people are more generous with their time than any other group – including the recently retired – and volunteering is growing fastest among young people. The Prince of Wales founded the cross-party and cross-sector ‘Step Up To Serve’ #iwill campaign in 2013 to champion and support this growth, and NCS plays a central role in its mission to increase by 50% the number of young people involved in social action by 2020.
John Cooper, a 16 year old NCS graduate from Sunderland, said: “Meeting Prince Charles and knowing that he and Amir Khan support NCS makes me feel so proud of the work the other graduates and I did. NCS changed my life forever and continues to change the lives of not just the teenagers on the programme, but the lives of the people in the areas in which they live.”
Michael Lynas, CEO of NCS, said: “We are delighted that the Prince of Wales has had the chance to meet NCS graduates and see the difference that they are making in their communities. At NCS, we believe that this generation of teenagers are among the most committed, connected and caring citizens our country has ever seen, but their achievements are all too often overlooked by society. It is vital that we celebrate the great things that young people are doing, and NCS graduates across the country will be thrilled to see that the Prince of Wales recognises their achievements. This will help us meet our ambitious Step Up To Serve pledge to have one million NCS graduates by 2020, by highlighting the positive side of young people – our future – and the value of backing them.”
Amir Khan added: “I am proud to show my support for National Citizen Service and see the brilliant work from the region’s talented youngsters. I know that programmes like NCS can change lives and create amazing opportunities for young people to do things they never thought they would have the chance do. Following the event today, I hope that more young people are inspired to take part in NCS and showcase the fantastic potential of the nation’s teenagers.”