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My Experience on the NCS Leaders Programme

There’s only one space for a Leicestershire National Citizen Service (NCS) Graduate to go on the national Leaders programme each year. In 2015 the Golden Ticket went to Ben, who took part in our Spring 2015 programme.

From making new friends to eating posh sandwiches with MP’s Ben’s experience was a brilliant opportunity to further his journey and learn how he can continue to make a difference and inspire others to take part in NCS too.

The NCS Leaders Programme takes place once a year in London. The residential week develops the Graduates skills, gives them once in a lifetime experiences including guru talks from staff at Roundhouse and Bloomberg and meeting MP’s.

You can read Ben’s experience by clicking here and by reading on…

My NCS Leaders Experience

NCS stands for National Citizenship Services, a government funded programme for 15-17 year olds. This year alone there were 80,000 graduates; so our army of graduates in blue hoodies is expanding! The programme helps mould you into a well-rounded person, in a way that school can’t. I have truly never heard of anyone say a word bad about it, and everyone comes out the other end with a boost in confidence and a collection of new friends. And if that’s not enough to entice you, then let me in on a secret: it looks amazing in a personal statement or CV.

Well that is NCS in a nutshell; NCS Leaders however is almost like the advance course. Out of the 80,000 graduates only 100 are selected for this intense experience, which all kicked off with a week long residential in Sevenoaks, Kent.

If you’re considering doing NCS, but not sure take my advice: Just do it! Honestly I have never heard of a bad experience, and if you want someone to talk to you about the programme don’t hesitate to get in touch.

So let me tell you how this week unfolded:

Sunday
,br> There isn’t much out there that scares me to be perfectly honest, but one exception to the rule is the train system. With ticket in hand I walked on what to me seemed like a high-speed metal coffin. I sat on the train with my ‘Don’t Panic!’ playlist on full blast, which included: ‘Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child and ‘Zero to Hero’ from Hercules. Of course keeping a close eye on my bag the entire time. Then once I arrived at St Pancras I was greeted by a bearded hero in the form of George, one of the alumni, who to my horror despite looking like a university student was actually in my school year.

Shortly after this was when things took a turn for the worse; me along with two others from Leicester and around seven Geordies had to drag our giant cases on two separate tubes up to our necks in irritated Londoners. Thankfully the Londoners probably couldn’t decipher our confused conversations though. For me the only good thing that came from this was getting to know some of the people I’d be lucky enough to spend a whole week shoutout to: Phoebe, Aaron, Melissa, Harriet, Callum, Courtney and Louise. All of who were lovely and so welcoming, making me feel daft for ever being nervous.

Monday

I’ll skip foreword to Monday, you’re not missing much only room allocation, unpacking and given a comfy NCS hoody. Although I did meet someone with a gob as big as mine, Sylvia, a team leader who had actually been on the same train as me the entire time.

Monday set the tone for the entire week, it was all started by a presentation on how we need to all go from ‘good to great’; aiming to go from a Michelle Williams level to a Beyonce level. This was the reoccurring theme of the week. Monday also marked the beginning of team 3: Laina, Sarah, Louise, Luke, Becca, Rebecca, Kyle, Arsh, Jess and Aimee; who would all become a big part of my NCS Leaders experience! The day was centred around team building exercises which helped me understand different qualities of a leader; all in all they were good other than the fact I was one of the ones ‘killed’ in the lava river challenge.

The day was rounded of by a group of us having our own little rave to grime music at the bottom of stares, whilst I munched on all of Prianka’s sweets. Little did I know this was just a taster of our week to come, and believe me it gets a whole lot better.

Tuesday

If I had known what was going to happen on Tuesday, I’d imagine Monday would have been a pretty sleepless night. The whole day is ram-packed with memories and stories that I will be telling people for many years to come! It started just like an ordinary day, just a tad earlier; but what was to happen over the next few hours was anything but ordinary.

London was the backdrop for all this madness, as we ran around the underground like giddy schoolchildren (which technically we were). Luckily I had my travel buddy: Sarah, to ensure that I didn’t stray too far away from the team. Our first stop of the day was UK Youth, who gave us an hour-long workshop on Democracy and how we could become more involved with the political system. I found it really interesting, and now have my eye set on meeting my MP. After that we didn’t have much time to waste, we needed to get to a totally different part of London for our next workshop. I remember shoving tuna sandwiches in my mouth as we rushed across Tower Bridge. The plan to not look like tourists totally went of the window; the temptation to take photos was far too great. Then we arrived at ‘Mayor Brown’, a big city law firm, which actually looked like something out of the TV series Suits. We had a surprisingly fun workshop on negotiating, which showed me how my ability to barter could actually be used in a professional capacity.

Then it was straight to the Houses of Parliament for a private reception with MPs, not too shabby. I don’t believe I have ever been in such a sophisticated atmosphere; they even had posh china and finger sandwiches. It was all going smoothly until me and my friends were taking a picture with an MP, I chose the worse moment possible to lose my balance and knock over the background sign. Thankfully nothing was broken and no one was hurt. For once my leg problem led to something good, the MP found the incident hilarious and decided to give our little group a private tour around parliament! Being a politics student I relished this experience, and now have every frame ingrained on my brain. So a massive thank you to Angela Rayner for the tour and all the advice, I honestly will remember it always!

The whole day was rounded off by a quick trip to Nandos; where wonder woman herself: Monique managed to get a reservation for 100 people.

Wednesday

Although I woke to a horrible sore throat, I was still bursting with all the left over excitement from Tuesday. All of us were half dead from the day before, the canteen was reminiscent of Dawn of the Dead. After a couple of black coffees, I was alert and ready for what ever the day had to throw at me.

Thankfully it was like the whole day had been tailored specifically to me, if I hadn’t know any better I would of thought my fairy godmother had been involved with the planning. It was a whole day dedicated to media, and the career paths it leads to. We were lucky enough to be joined by the Roundhouse and Bloomberg, who gave us a series of workshops on different media skills including: Presenting, Marketing and Video Making. I felt like an old cartoon character with love hearts for eyes; I must have been the only one making notes on everything that they told us, almost treating it like a university lecture. It only left me more driven to chase my ambitions, although I’m still left indecisive about which area specifically to enter.

Then panic swept over the teams as we found out a photo shoot was imminent, without having access to beauty products. I swear there might have been tears, if there weren’t the fear of mascara running. Everybody aimed to impress, as there were rumours that some of us would become the face of NCS, whether there is any truth to that I still don’t know. In the end they took everyone’s photos; I recently got mine back and love them as I look so happy and care free.

Thursday

This was the most rewarding part of the entire week, as it focused around a social action project. To me this will be legacy of NCS, as it is young people giving back to community because they want to. We packed into three buses, me with travel buddy in hand, and made are way into Kent’s beautiful countryside singing to Frozen and Oasis .Our destination was a little farm ran by Wide Horizons, it is a retreat for underprivileged children from inner London to experience the countryside. Team 3 were assigned a humongous thorn bush that we had to trim back, someone actually let me loose with a saw to deal with it. Thankfully we left with all limbs intact, but only after we cut down this monster of bush.

As a reward for all our hard work we were met back at base by a Special Guest: Poet Sulli Breaks. Now admittedly at the time I had no clue who he was, but since then I have become a fan by listening to some of his work. Then once he had showcased his talent, we all had the opportunity to showcase any hidden talents. This including: dancing, singing, stand up and weird shoulders.

Finally to mark our last evening we went out with a blast and had ourselves a Halloween party, where everyone let their hair down and got turnt up. Even the leaders let loose, I’m looking at you Monique and Sylvia. At one point I was in the middle of a circle bopping with people cheering me on, I honestly don’t know how it escalated to that. The best part though was when Sylvia let the whole of Sevenoaks know the party had been shutdown.

Friday

The final day reared its ugly head, and the realisation that this maybe the last time we all see each other for months slowly sinked in. I know this sounds weird but in the six days I knew these people, I felt closer to them than people I’ve known a year and it felt like we had always been together.

Each team had to do what turned out to be a very emotional presentation that reflected on the week and how we had gone from ‘good to great’. My role within team 3’s presentation was to hold Sarah’s hand and answer: ‘How are we going to support each other in the future?’ which for me was a rather easy question to answer, as my answer was honest and just fact. During the week when we had all referred to each other as ‘family’, I actually ment it and will continue to support all of them as if they were my own family. Now I know all of their ambitions and aspirations, I will proactively help them all achieve their dreams in whatever way I can.

I can’t think about the rest of the day without getting emotional! All I’ll say it ended with me on a 1.5-hour train journey back to Leicester, crying my eyes out reading all the lovely things that people had said about me. Made worse by the fact that I had no tissues, and sat next to a woman giving me dirty looks.

Conclusion

I’m sorry that my ‘summary’ couldn’t be any shorter, but believe it or not there was a load of gems that were cut.

I already miss all of my NCS Leaders and looking for any opportunity for us to reunite in the future. They didn’t get mentioned as much as they should of in this summary, but the sad fact is that you wouldn’t know who I was going on about if they were mentioned; which is your lose really. Let me see how many I can list: Sarah, Louise, Courtney (Lloyd), Aaron, Katie (Willett), Prianka, Benita, Hannah, Kofi, Sarah (Choi), Connie, George, Rebecca (Both of the Northern Irish girls), Becca, Aimee, Callum, Lawrence, Rae, Arsh (Shaikh), Clement, Phoebe, Delali, Chantelle, Ben (Morris), Benjamin, Jess, Phoebe (politics student), Kyle, Luke, Katie (Payne), Morgan (short), Morgan (tall), Becky, Shanil, Melissa, Harriet, Tianna, Faith, Brendan, Georgina, Sam, Jack, Jasmine, Paul, Courtney (Price), Charlie, Kathy, Brendan, Gala, Tara, Amy, Henry, Josh, Kayleigh (Mann), Kayleigh (Hampton), Megan, Tom, Joe, Toby, Will, Tabitha, Victoria, Riece and Saoirse! (Sorry if I forgot you)

But this isn’t the end of my NCS journey, merely a chapter in it. As a wise man (Martin) once said: ‘You’ve not done NCS, you’re doing NCS’.

By Ben

If you are interested in taking part in NCS please register your interest online at: [email protected]


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