Activity sessions get the thumbs up from teenagers

ACTIVITIES aimed at teenagers are making their mark in Ponteland, according to the leading youth worker for the area.

Hundreds of young people have attended sessions and participated in events and projects run by the Northumberland Youth Service over the last 12 months.

And Senior Area Youth Worker for West Northumberland, Ashley Brown, revealed that one group in particular had achieved a great deal by completing the Keyfund programme, where youngsters can apply for direct funding to deliver their own initiatives.

In a presentation to Ponteland Town Council, he said that the drop-in sessions at the youth centre near the high school are becoming more popular, particularly at lunchtime

Young people can try a new activity, keep fit, receive support and practical help, as well as advice about sexual health and enjoy hot and cold snacks.

“The lunchtime drop-in has been especially beneficial to the new Year 9 students at the high school following on from the transition work we started in the summer, which a number of them attended,” said Mr Brown.

“The development of these relationships has started to develop their confidence with youth workers during these regular activities. They, in turn, tell others about the youth centre so the numbers are rising each week.

“Our after-school sessions continue on a weekly basis, with numbers varying depending upon the weather and other after-school commitments, although they are also rising because of the summer transition work.”

The figures up to December state that 134 young people have accessed the service in Ponteland and 104 are involved on a regular basis.

Teenagers can work on their Keyfund project plans at after-school sessions.

Some of the groups have completed stage one, up to £250, and others have completed stage two, up to £500.

Mr Brown said the Eyebrows Group has now done all four stages of the process. Sections three, up to £1,000, and four, up to £2,000, involved some community element.

Their activities included re-decorating and updating the equipment at the youth centre, taking part in a litter pick with the Mayor and councillors of Ponteland – arranged through the Young People in Northumberland group – going to the Wetheriggs Animal Sanctuary in Penrith for a social inclusion project, which involved building four large shelters for various breeds of large ducks, and learning new physical and cooking skills at Center Parcs in Whinfell Forest. They invited another three young people to also participate.

He added: “The amount of work put into the whole process was considerable and the whole group has shown through their evaluations at the end of each stage that they have learned so much.

“Indeed, only five per cent of young people who access the programme nationally actually achieve stage four.”

Eight young people from the centre are currently involved in an HSBC Golf Roots Plus project at Close House near Heddon-on-the-Wall following a successful fund-raising application.

The sessions are designed to give participants a positive focus.

Personal Advisor Pamela Cornfoot, who is qualified to offer information, advice and guidance to young people, attends Ponteland once a fortnight and is looking at ways to develop the service and links across the area.

Partnership work is continuing with Ponteland Methodist Church, which has seen a steady increase of the opportunities on offer.

During holiday periods there have been visits to a range of locations such as the Newburn Activity Centre, Wet ‘N’ Wild and XS Superbowl, and a few Ponteland teenagers were among the group of 30 that took part in the Time Travel Northumberland 1940s Heritage Big Brother project, which involved the young people going to Featherstone Castle, near Haltwhistle, where they spent a week dressing, working and living as their ancestors did when Britain was at war with Germany.

In the year ahead, the West area youth service will continue the monthly events in Ponteland and this time they will be evenly split between fun activities and community-based initiatives.

A £500 pot will be created that young people can directly apply to for their own small projects, which can be outside of the youth service structure.

Mr Brown added: “Using the leisure centre for activities like football has been very effective and we will be making more bookings, although we always have to take the hiring costs into consideration.”

The town council will decide at a future meeting what amount to give the youth service in the 2013/14 financial year for its activities in the local area.