Now in its eighth year, the Youth Ambassadors™ remains one of Leading Link's most successful programmes.
The Youth Ambassadors™ are a dedicated group of young volunteers who work tirelessly to help underpin our work, playing a vital role in both the planning and delivery of many projects including our work in schools, holiday activity and targetted transition programmes and supporting community ventures such as The Big Event.
Whilst they are part of the team, all of our volunteers are offered an array of different opportunities including Food Hygiene and Emergency First Aid qualifications, a Children's University™ 'Passport to Volunteering' and various leadership and developmental skills when they eventually progress and take a role in our Senior Ambassador programme.
The Youth Ambassadors™ were originally set up for a week in 2007 as part of the Youth Ministry Team's (YMT) visit to all the schools in the Northumberland Catholic Partnership. Whilst under the umbrella of Extended Services, the Ambassadors were heavily involved in everything that we did, as they worked alongside young children from the first schools, supported peers in the middle schools and planned events for the high school. They also helped, and continue to help since the inception of Leading Link, with family learning and youth leadership programmes and have been integral to our success.
The original group of young people recruited for the YMT visit were elevated into the Senior Group and formed their own steering group, under the helm of Chairman Richard Crulley. They went on to raise over £60,000 worth of funding for St Benet Biscop High School in Bedlington and for the Catholic Partnership of schools, to create opportunities such as organising residentials, investment in professional media equipment and the purchase of our very own minibus.
Richard's key involvement in the steering group resulted in the creation of 'The Richard Crulley Award' in 2009, which was introduced to reward the Youth Ambassador with the greatest contribution to Leading Link and to their local community. It was presented to Richard at 'High Hopes', our celebration of youth in Hall One at the SAGE in Gateshead. In 2010, it was presented to Rachael Lee, in 2011 it Tom McCormack was the recipient of the award and in its final award in 2012 a joint effort was presented to Antonia and Rebecca Owers, all for their fantastic achievements as Youth Ambassadors™.
The Youth Ambassadors™ programme is seperated into specialist areas to offer our young volunteers training and experience in a subject of their own interest.
From media production and catering to creative art and workshop facilitating, whatever the interests of our Ambassadors may be there is an opportunity for them to develop that particular skill. Emphasis is placed upon youth leadership and ownership, and volunteers are encouraged to develop confidence and teamwork skills by working together to develop their own ideas and take them forward to a 'real' stage.
We have our own in-house youth media team who work with staff to produce promotional leaflets, film and photograph Leading Link events and activities and produce marketing material which is used in a 'real' context to promote the charity's activities through our website, local newspapers and social media.
Our Senior Ambassadors are encouraged to develop and deliver the training programme for new Youth Ambassadors™ as well as lead the interview process, those interested in creative art and drama are encouraged to facilitate workshops for younger peers through our transition programmes and Children's University™ opportunities and Ambassadors with an interest in event management and hospitality get heavily involved in the planning and delivery of community events including our extremely popular annual family fun day The Big Event, which is held in the summer.
Since the departure of the original group of Youth Ambassadors™, the team has continued to go from strength-to-strength and has been recognised nationally as evidence of good practice - including community cohesion and youth led activities being rated as 'Outstanding' in several schools' OFSTED reports as a result.
The young volunteer group are constantly being recognised as positive role models in their schools and local community, most recently they received positive press coverage for working with a local group of volunteers to help clean up Blyth beach after an incident in the summer involving a number of their peers.
Graduates of the programme are constantly progressing from school into work and higher education as a direct result of their work with the Youth Ambassadors™, with several case studies citing their Children's University™ volunteering passports acting as solid evidence bases and their knowledge of training including Health and Safety and Safeguarding allowing them to stand out from other candidates. This has led to them securing University places, relevant Apprenticeships in education and media and even employment.
Most recently one Ambassador, who had originally wanted to be a History teacher, secured an Apprenticeship in an Ashington School Partnership as a result of his extensive experience as part of the Ambassador media team and his knowledge of school policies and procedures. Another, who had over 300 hours in her Children's University™ volunteering passport, was able to demonstrate her motivation, dedication and experience in planning events and facilitating workshops, which helped to secure her an Business Administration Apprenticeship in the NHS.