Helen Goodman, Member of Parliament for Bishop Auckland, turned ‘Dragon’ as she heard local young people pitch their community project ideas.

Helen joined 30 local teenagers taking part in National Citizen Service (NCS), an open-to-all unifying experience shared by teens from different backgrounds which helps them become better individuals, and in turn better citizens.

During her visit to the teams at Bishop Auckland College, Helen sat on a panel of community ‘Dragons’ and gave feedback to each group’s ideas. Joining Denise Halpern, Director of NCS Delivery at vEducation; Pauline Vipond, NCS Programme Manager at University of the First Age (UFA); Michele Armstrong, Head of Volunteering at The Auckland Project; and Claire Morrell, Communications Manager also at The Auckland Project, Helen heard how two groups of teenagers planned to run projects benefiting Down’s Syndrome North East and Stray Aid.

There are almost 4,000 North East teenagers currently taking part in the summer programme, and in teams of fifteen, following outdoor and discovery residential weeks, they deliver a youth-led project that benefits their local area.

Helen said: “I was very impressed with the young people taking part in the programme. After the pressures of collecting their GCSE results in the morning, they then had to present to a board of ‘Dragons’ which must have been a bit nerve-wracking. The two teams spoke with confidence and enthusiasm about their projects and presented some really exciting plans which they’ll carry out in the next few weeks. Really well done to all involved.”

Following their successful pitches, the teenagers are set to deliver their projects in the community. One team are fundraising to help the local branch of Stray Aid meet a £40,000 target to fund a new heating system.

Another team are looking to provide assistance to children with Down’s Syndrome and will be running activity days filled with arts, crafts and games.

Team member Demi Bradshaw, 16, said: “Our aim is to offer support to Down Syndrome North East and raise money for their charity, as well as spending two days with the children and doing activities with them.

“The whole NCS experience has been fantastic. I met most of my team for the first time three weeks ago, and now we’re all great friends and have built skills like teamwork, confidence and resilience.”

NCS provides young people aged 15-17 the chance to take on new challenges, experience exciting activities, make long-lasting friendships and develop vital skills that will support them later in life. It was launched to tackle three core issues of importance to society: social cohesion, social mobility and social engagement.

Over 500,000 young people have completed the NCS programme to date, giving over 12 and half million hours to social action projects since NCS started.

To find out more about NCS, including information on how to take part, go to www.ncsyes.co.uk. Teenagers who missed out on the summer programme have another chance to take part in the autumn half-term.